Reporting Mona Rivera
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island music teacher has been indicted on 31 counts for inappropriate contact with 14 students, officials announced Wednesday.
John Benstock, 47, of Bayville, was originally arrested in May after authorities said he had “inappropriate contact” with a Bayville Intermediate School student, who was under 10-years-old. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child.
Det. Lt. Kevin Smith explained the student was “enticed to touch [the] teacher in an inappropriate manner.” Police said the alleged incident happened on April 26 while Benstock was teaching a class of five third graders.
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Since his arrest, 13 more students have come forward to say they were abused by Benstock. Investigators believe there could be more victims.
Benstock is charged with 15 felony counts of course of sexual contact against a child, two felony counts of sexual abuse, and 14 misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He faces up to seven years in prison for each felony count.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that as early as 2000, Benstock engaged in inappropriate contact with students in orchestra classes at two Locust Valley elementary schools and during private lessons in the students’ homes. All of the children were under 11-years-old at the time of the alleged abuse.
Defense Attorney Chad Seigel said Benstock is innocent and that the children came forward only after being inappropriately grilled by educators and parents.
“Quite frankly, given the sloppy way this investigation was conducted, I’m surprised more children didn’t come forward with false accusations,” Seigel said.
Benstock has been a teacher with the Locust Valley School District since 2000 and previously worked in schools in Valley Stream, Lawrence, Bay Shore and Rockville Centre. He also worked as a teacher for All Saints Regional Catholic School.
In a statement, Dr. Anna F. Hunderfund, superintendent of the Locust Valley School District, said she was “deeply concerned” about the latest charges brought against Benstock. Benstock was immediately removed from the classroom and reassigned to home with pay when he was arrested in May.
“His employment status remains unchanged pending the outcome of the legal process,” Hunderfund said. “This is a very serious criminal matter and we will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities in their investigation. “
Benstock pleaded not guilty to the charges. Bail has been set at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash. His next court date is July 15.