A Cook County judge set bail at $25,000 Friday for a 34-year-old Hoffman Estates man charged with child pornography.
Randall Scott Gilbert, who worked as a teachers aide at a school for special needs children in Palatine, is accused of attempting to meet underage girls in online chat rooms, prosecutors said. Posing as a 17-year-old boy, Gilbert engaged in "sexually explicit" online chats with young girls in an attempt to meet them in person, authorities said.
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"When (the girls) realized his age, the conversations ended," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Kathryn Roy.
The state's attorney's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Hoffman Estates police began a joint investigation after receiving a tip. Authorities discovered Gilbert also used chat rooms to trade images of child pornography, Roy said. After Gilbert's arrest Thursday, police reviewed his tablet and found numerous images of children engaging in sexual behavior, Roy said.
Authorities said Gilbert never met any of the girls and there is no evidence the children depicted in the images found on his computer were children from the Kirk School where he worked.
Gilbert has been relieved of his duties pending the investigation and has no access to the building or the school's information systems, said Principal Kim Dungan. "We are taking every precaution possible to assure parents every child here is safe," she said.
Judge Jill Cerone Marisie ordered Gilbert have no contact with the school or anyone under 18. She also banned him from using the Internet or a cellphone.
If convicted, Gilbert, who has no criminal background, could face up to seven years in prison. He next appears in court on March 28.