UPDATED Oct. 10, 5:25 p.m.
A 35-year-old teacher previously assigned to a Ridgewood public school who was busted last week for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit images with a teenage girl he previously taught is out on bail, according to court records.
Michael Cognato, 35, was taken into custody on Oct. 6 at the District 25 office located at 30-48 Linden Place in Flushing. Cognato, previously a math teacher at I.S. 93 on Forest Avenue. He was arraigned that evening on a 33-count criminal complaint and later released on $20,000 bond.
Cognato faces up to 15 years behind bars if convicted, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
“The charges are very troublesome,” Brown said in a statement on Friday night. “A teacher is accused of preying on a young student he had once been entrusted to teach. A classroom should always be a safe place for a child. If true, this teacher destroyed his former student’s trust.”
Prosecutors said the girl had previously been a part of Cognato’s eighth-grade class; after she graduated from I.S. 93, Cognato allegedly continued to tutor her in advanced math. The two remained close during the following school year, as he communicated with her through Facebook and Skype.
On or about July 20 of this year, law enforcement sources said, Cognato allegedly contacted the victim through Snapchat and sent several pictures of himself without a shirt. Later, he began engaging in sexually explicit conversations with her and would send her several naked pictures of himself.
The following month, Brown noted, he allegedly began sending the victim videos of himself performing various sexual acts. Between Aug. 15 and Sept. 29, Cognato had allegedly sent the girl 15 graphic videos of himself, and she sent back other explicit videos that she made at his request.
The girl’s mother contacted police after learning of the indecent behavior. Members of the NYPD Queens Special Victims Squad arrested Cognato following an investigation.
Cognato, a Bethpage resident, was charged with using a child under 17 for a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a minor, possession of sexual performance by a child and acting in a manner injurious to a child.
“These alleged actions are deeply disturbing and have absolutely no place in our schools,” a Department of Education spokesperson told QNS. “This individual was immediately removed from the school and reassigned away from students.”