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August 6, 2021Phoenix, AZ, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI Phoenix seeks help identifying potential victims of ex-school teacher arrested for child exploitation

PHOENIX — Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are seeking the public’s assistance to identify potential victims of a former teacher arrested Thursday for distributing and possessing child exploitation material.

Cheng-Hsuan “Eric” Tsai, 29, of Mesa, Arizona, appeared for his initial appearance Friday morning. He faces 20 counts of distribution and possessing images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Maricopa County Judge Steven McCarthy set Tsai’s bail to $1 million.

The investigation on Tsai began in February, when HSI special agents discovered a then unknown suspect who was accessing, downloading and disseminating child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) electronically. HSI, in conjunction with the Mesa Police Department (MPD), opened an investigation, which ultimately identified Tsai. The investigation remains ongoing to identify the scope, suspects and victims associated with Tsai.

HSI special agents, officers with MPD and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Tsai Thursday morning at his residence in Mesa, after a state-executed search warrant of his electronic devices revealed the presence of CSEM. Additionally, an initial forensic review of his media revealed sexually abusive material of infants.

At the time of his arrest, Tsai was employed as a teacher at the Tempe Montessori school in Mesa.

Like all defendants, those accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being prosecuted by the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office.

Anyone who may have had previous contact with Tsai or thinks they may have information that may be relevant to the child exploitation investigation, is asked to call HSI Phoenix at (602) 200-2200.

HSI also encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE, or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the United States and Canada, callers should dial (802) 872-6199. Hearing impaired users may call TTY (802) 872-6196.

HSI takes a victim-centered approach to child exploitation investigations by working to identify, rescue and stabilize victims. HSI works in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), ICAC partners, and other federal, state, and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC’s toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children.

Updated: 09/09/2021