Metro

Van driver for special needs students arrested for child pornography

A North Andover man who worked for a Bedford-based company that coordinates transportation for students with special needs was arrested on child pornography charges last week, State Police said Thursday.

Joseph LaHood, 56, a driver for Van Pool, was arrested Oct. 30 after State Troopers and Andover police executed a search warrant for his home at 16 Edgelawn Ave., Apt. 2, State Police said in a statement.

LaHood drove a silver Ford van with school bus markings into the parking lot next to the apartment while troopers and officers were still searching it, State Police said.

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Police knew that LaHood had an active gun license and owned several registered firearms, so they checked to make sure he was not armed when he exited the van, State Police said.

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The troopers and officers told LaHood they had a warrant to search his home and read him his Miranda rights, after which he “made statements relevant to the investigation.”

Troopers in the State Police Cyber Crimes Unit examined several devices in the apartment and, with LaHood’s permission, his smartphone, State Police said. They found child pornography on a laptop and on his phone.

LaHood was charged with possession of child pornography and dissemination of visual material of a child in a state of nudity.

He was held on $50,000 cash bail pending his court appearance.

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In a statement on Friday, Kevin Hinkamper, the CEO of Van Pool Transportation, said LaHood had been with the company since the beginning of this school year.

“We have been informed by authorities that the charges are unrelated to his employment,” said Hinkamper. “This individual was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.”

The company, said Hinkamper complies with state and federal regulations by competing extensive screening processes that include Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks, sexual offender record information checks, FBI fingerprinting checks and alcohol and drug testing.

“There is no higher priority for Van Pool Transportation than the safety, security and well-being of our students and employees,” said Hinkamper in a statement. “We believe transporting each of our five thousand students every school day is a great responsibility, and are dedicated to a commitment of superior and safe service.”

Danny McDonald of Globe staff contributed to this report. Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.