FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island middle school principal accused of having sex with a teenager he met online submitted false fingerprints to the state a decade ago, according to the New York State Department of Education.
The Freeport School District had relied on the agency’s clearance of 44-year-old John O’Mard when he was hired in 2003, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
Department of Education spokesperson Dennis Thompkins said the fingerprints allowed O’Mard to pass a criminal background check.
“Parents are going to want to know how can this happen,” Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown), the state DOE committee chairman, told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Friday.
O’Mard had a past conviction for grand larceny and another for petty larceny, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
O’Mard’s lawyer said he hadn’t yet reviewed the criminal dockets alleging the convictions.
The Department of Education requires fingerprints for job applicants, and most utilize new digital technology done at police stations and authorized businesses, but, as CBS 2’s Gusoff reported, 25 percent mail in their fingerprints. Experts say the old ink method is ripe for ripoff.
“An individual can find a person who looks like them and doesn’t have a criminal record, send that person in with the ID and the person taking fingerprints would have no way of knowing,” said Kristen Gerakaris of Printscan Fingerprinting.
Thompkins said O’Mard likely used somebody else’s fingerprints and submitted them in place of his own.
“The way to con the system would be to get a hold of a fingerprint card, have somebody else go in and pose as you or just pose as themselves and just have the card with the fingerprints on the card,” he said. “We’re fairly confident this individual submitted a false set of prints.”
Thompkins said he does not know for sure how the false fingerprints were submitted. Flanagan said he’s calling for a complete review of teachers fingerprinting, which now doesn’t even require a photo ID.
“If you want to perpetrate fraud you can find a way to get card, falsify signature, mail it in. If you want to beat the system you can,” he said.
The school district said the fingerprint findings came as a complete shock.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kishore Kuncham issued the following statement Friday:
“The Freeport School District has come to learn of allegations that Mr. John O’Mard filed false fingerprints in support of his affidavit for employment in the Freeport School District. We are outraged and deeply disturbed to learn of all of the allegations associated with Mr. O’Mard.”
“We have contacted all appropriate authorities including the State Education Department to aggressively review the circumstances presented. The Freeport School District will continue to cooperate with all inquiries from the State Education Department and law enforcement authorities, including the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office concerning this matter.”
“The Freeport School District has directed District counsel, Ingerman Smith, LLP, to conduct an investigation into the falsification of records and to report its findings to the Board of Education so that swift, appropriate administrative action may be taken by the Freeport School District concerning Mr. O’Mard.”
The J.W. Dodd Middle School principal pleaded not guilty to four counts of criminal sexual act in the third degree at his arraignment on Wednesday.
O’Mard met a 16-year-old boy online and the two chatted for about a week before arranging a meeting to have sex on Sept. 15, 2012, police said.
O’Mard is accused of picking up the teen in his car and driving him back to Freeport, where he allegedly coerced the underage minor to engage in various sex acts with him in the basement of his house, CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan reported.
The victim was an ex-student of the school and had O’Mard as a principal, police said. Neither one recognized the other before the sexual encounter, but then afterward realized they did know each other, police said.
Although the meeting took place in September, the teen only recently told a friend about the encounter, police said. The friend then notified the school, and the school notified police on March 15.
O’Mard faces up to four years in prison if convicted, and is due back in court March 25.
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