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Arizona sex offender case underscores why background checks are vital

The need for background checks for all school photographer staff was illustrated by a recent national news story out of Arizona. A Gilbert, Ariz, photographer is facing child porn charges, with court records revealing he had prior convictions for sexually abusing a minor, according to the Arizona Family site. While this case happened in Arizona, the photographer's prior convictions were in California.


According to court documents, undercover agents began investigating an online chatroom in November where they identified Robert Anthony Lagunas, 29, allegedly making sexually charged statements about images being shared in the group chat. In the chat, Lagunas revealed to the undercover agent he was a school photographer who worked at elementary, middle, and high schools. When asked if he had done anything, Lagunas reportedly responded, “sadly no,” the report said. Special agents located Gilbert's home and, during surveillance, confirmed his employment with Lifetouch National School Studios. He was later arrested at his home.


According to the Arizona's Family report, previous criminal records uncovered Lagunas was arrested in 2008 in the State of California for alleged lewd acts with a child under 14. He was found guilty in one of two counts and was sentenced to two years of probation.


The parent company of Lifetouch, Shutterfly LLC, provided the following statement to Arizona’s Family:

We recently became aware of the allegations regarding a Lifetouch employee. We take any allegation about our photographers very seriously, which is why we and are cooperating fully with this investigation. All photographers we hire are required to go through a background check and we also comply with individual state requirements before they’re allowed to photograph in schools. Authorities have no cause for concern related to his duties at Lifetouch, including onsite conduct or proper handling of photography. As is consistent with our policy, the employee in question has been placed on unpaid administrative leave while the investigation continues.
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