Nationwide child porn sting led agents to former bus driver

June 19, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Federal agents learned about a former Issaquah School District bus driver trading child pornography online in a nationwide sting, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced June 8, about a month after federal agents arrested the driver on school district grounds.

The agency’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate arrested the former bus driver and former Eastside Catholic High School teacher Andrew Bernard Rekdahl, 29, and 189 other suspects in the effort, dubbed Operation Orion. The sting targeted the possession, receipt, transportation, distribution, advertisement or production of explicit images or videos.

Rekdahl, 29, faces child pornography charges after federal prosecutors said the Carnation resident shared images and videos of boys online from his home computer. Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested Rekdahl at a school district facility May 10 after a monthslong sting operation.

Operation Orion occurred last month, although the agency started recording evidence of Rekdahl sharing child pornography in January.

Federal prosecutors charged him with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison.

What to know

Issaquah School District administrators asked parents with concerns about substitute bus driver Andrew Bernard Rekdahl to email DriverConcerns@issaquah.wednet.edu. The district also posted a list of affected bus routes at www.issaquah.wednet.edu/documents/transportation/routes.pdf.

Rekdahl served as a substitute bus driver for more than a dozen routes throughout the school district between Nov. 14 and May 10 and as a science teacher at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish from 2005 to June 2010.

Officials at the school district and the parochial school said no complaints were made against Rekdahl at either organization.

ICE agents said the transition from the school year to summer vacation influenced the timing of Operation Orion.

“With the advent of summer vacation, children may have more time and access to the Internet, making this a good time to talk to them about online dangers. Many of the child exploitation cases under Operation Orion began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement. “Let this operation be a warning to anyone who would think they can use the Internet to exploit children: We are out there looking for you, we will find you and you will be prosecuted.”

In addition to the arrests, agents identified 18 victims of child pornography activities. The agency also arrested suspects in Argentina, Great Britain, Spain and the Philippines.

Federal agents told school district officials no evidence exists to indicate any inappropriate or illegal activities occurred as Rekdahl worked for the district.

Following the arrest, school district officials posted a list of Rekdahl’s bus routes. The substitute bus driver covered routes throughout the district, serving elementary, middle and high schools.

The district stretches from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton, and includes 107 school bus routes.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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