Kentucky teacher sentenced 22 years in prison over child pornography

Published 8:10 am Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky has announced sentencings in two cases, one involving production of child pornography by a former high school teacher and coach with one of his students, the other was a case of COVID relief fund fraud.

Andrew Zaheri, 40, a former Rowan County Senior High School teacher and soccer coach, was sentenced to 22 years in prison at U.S. District Court in Covington after pleading guilty to production of child pornography.

According to his plea agreement, in the summer of 2022, Zaheri began a sexual relationship with a minor student at the high school where he was employed as a teacher. The relationship continued through the school year and included Zaheri engaging in sexual acts with the victim during school hours. Zaheri admitted that, during the relationship, he produced sexually explicit images and videos of the minor victim using his cellphone.

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Under federal law, Zaheri must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence. Upon his release from prison, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for 22 years.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted this case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

COVID relief fund fraud charges

A Lexington couple, convicted in March for their roles in COVID relief fund fraud, were sentenced at U.S. District Court in Lexington.

Neal Harris, 57, received 37 months in prison, while his co-defendant, Kelly Harris, 64, received 46 months. Both were convicted on eight counts of wire fraud for obtaining Economic Injury Disaster Loans under false pretenses.

Evidence presented at trial determined from May through July 2020, the Harrises submitted materially false applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for five businesses they claimed were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They claimed the five businesses had done a total of $1.4 million in business in 2019. In reality, none of the businesses were operational in 2019. Despite this, the Harrises sought more than $450,000 in loans to which they were not entitled. They obtained $357,600 in disaster relief funds from the SBA for three of the businesses. A local bank detected the fraud in August 2020 and froze the funds remaining in the business accounts.

At sentencing, both defendants were found to have obstructed justice by testifying falsely at the trial.