A former Portland Public Schools employee pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Benjamin Conroy, 33, was arrested and charged with sexually exploiting a child at Ocean Avenue Elementary School after police received a citizen’s report in October. He faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison, followed by at least five years of federal supervision upon his release.

A federal grand jury indicted Conroy on one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of transporting child pornography, both of which Conroy originally pleaded not guilty to in November.

Benjamin Conroy in a Zoom court appearance Oct. 15

Benjamin Conroy, an education technician who worked at Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland, appeared in court via Zoom on Oct. 15, 2021. Image from court video

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen agreed to accept Conroy’s new plea Wednesday afternoon, and will issue an order continuing work on his second count while he waits to be sentenced.

Before accepting his plea, Torresen told Conroy she needed him to verify a version of events filed by U.S. Assistant Attorney Sheila Sawyer on Monday. The prosecutor’s account stated that a citizen stopped by the Portland Police Department on Oct. 5, 2021, to say he had received “several disturbing images and messages on his cellphone” from an unknown man on the dating app Grindr. That citizen told police he believed the unknown man may have sexually abused a young child.

Sawyer’s filing said that the unknown man who had sent the messages, known as “Str8 Vers Anon” on Grindr, was identified as Conroy and arrested by Portland police a week later. The filing further stated that the images Conroy sent over the app were screenshots from a video Conroy took of himself on Oct. 1 2021, sexually abusing a 7-year-old autistic student.


“Is there any respect in which you disagree with anything that’s contained within the prosecution version?” Torresen asked Conroy on Wednesday.

“No,” Conroy said.

“Is the information in the prosecution version true to your own personal knowledge?”


The hearing did not reveal any new information regarding allegations of abuse of two other students, who were mentioned briefly in an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland last fall. Conroy does not face additional charges for those alleged incidents.

The affidavit states Conroy has worked with children on the autism spectrum for more than eight years, both in homes and in schools.

The Portland school district hired him the summer before his arrest. The district said in interviews with the Portland Press Herald last fall that Conroy previously worked for Casa, which provides behavioral health support to schools, and before that for Regional School Unit 22 in Hampden and Regional School Unit 2 in Hallowell.

Conroy’s second federal charge, relating to the transportation of child pornography, is linked to his Grindr use.

“Specifically, the defendant used the internet and the dating application Grindr to upload and transmit digital images that depicted a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the Nov. 18 indictment stated. By using Grindr, it added, Conroy was transporting his images from inside the state of Maine to a computer server outside the state.

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