TAMPA, FL. – A former employee of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is facing charges after sending obscene content to a juvenile he met through the 211 hotline.
On March 28, 2022, at approximately 9:30 am, a female teenager called 211 during a crisis. The 211 hotline is designed for individuals who are struggling with thoughts of depression, suicide, or other mental health issues to speak with an interventional specialist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The victim provided her contact information and was told that someone would call her back.
A short time later, the juvenile victim received a return phone call via a recorded line from a man who identified himself as an employee of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
After speaking with the man for over an hour, the victim received a call back less than an hour later from a restricted number. She recognized the voice as the same counselor she had spoken with earlier. The man, who identified himself as “William,” proceeded to call the victim’s cellphone from the restricted number multiple times throughout the day claiming to check on her.
The suspect requested the victim’s Instagram username, which she provided, and he followed her on the social media platform. After continuing to communicate that day via Instagram direct messages and phone calls, the suspect sent the juvenile victim explicit photographs and videos, in addition to requesting nude photographs of her, which she did not provide.
The following day, March 29, the victim reported the incident at her high school to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy. Through the course of an investigation, deputies learned that Christopher Augusto Laracuente Cotto, 32, a call taker who had been employed at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for approximately two months according to the Center, was the individual who had been communicating with the victim.
In addition to working at the Crisis Center, Laracuente Cotto is a volunteer worship leader at Iglesia Adoración Y Palabra Jesucristo Es El Señor (Iglesia APJS) located in Wesley Chapel, according to church pastors.
In addition to obtaining a confession from Laracuente Cotto, detectives obtained a subpoena for his cellphone, confirming the details shared by the victim.
On Thursday, April 21, Laracuente Cotto was arrested on charges of transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. He has been terminated from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
“I cannot think of anything more despicable than taking advantage of a child during their time of crisis. This individual abused his power, violated the trust of the victim, and equally as important, he violated the trust of his employer, a well-respected non-profit organization that helps tens of thousands of people in need every year,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “I strongly believe this individual is in no way a reflection of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay or the profoundly positive impact the center has made on the lives of children and adults in our community through the 211 hotline. I do not believe this incident should prevent anyone who is struggling from turning to the Crisis Center for help, and we continue to encourage our residents to do so.”
Detectives are asking anyone else who feels they may be a victim, or anyone with additional information related to this case, to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 813-247-8200. To remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).