Brevard County Sheriff’s investigators said they have uncovered “thousands” of child pornography images on the computer of a 65-year-old Cocoa Beach man arrested Wednesday night at his home on charges of making and distributing the material.
Berne Schmidlkofer is being held at the John E. Polk Correction Facility in Seminole County on federal charges of producing, distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography.
Brevard County Sheriff’s agents who began investigating him in April following a tip from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children said they have uncovered at least one molestation victim, but believe there may be others, said Lt. Tod Goodyear.
Schmidlkofer was housed Wednesday night at the Brevard County Detention Center, then released the next morning into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that helped investigate the case.
He faces up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.
“We are not finished with the forensics on his computer but we have done some of it, and we have found thousands of images of child pornography,” Goodyear said. “There may be more (victims) but right now we can’t say that. Right now, it’s a forensics examination, and we can only confirm one victim.”
Schmidlkofer is a former Brevard County social studies and history teacher who taught sporadically within the district for a total of 4 ½ years since 1974, and resigned from a teaching position at Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School in 2004, district officials said.
He has spent the last five years teaching school in Japan and returned to Cocoa Beach in December 2008, U.S. Attorney officials said.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, Schmidlkofer told police during a June 19 interview at his home that “people he met online” began sending him the images about three years ago, and that he deleted them. He admitted uploading photos to a Web site, but denied taking them, saying “he would never hurt a child because he was a ‘school teacher.’”
The complaint said agents were later contacted by a man who said Schmidlkofer molested two children.
When questioned, the children told police Schmidlkofer threatened to hurt their family members or send them to jail if they told anyone about the molestation, the complaint said. Nude photos of a boy were discovered on Schmidlkofer’s computer, the document said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Brevard County Sheriff’s Agent Dan Ogden at 633-8407.