A retired high school choir director is accused of hiding cameras inside a bedroom of his home to secretly record a former student as he undressed.
Joseph Ohrt, 56, of Buckingham Township, was arrested Tuesday and charged with one count of interception, disclosure, or use of wire, electronic or oral communications and four counts of possession, sale, distribution, manufacture, or advertisement of electronic, mechanical, or other devices and telecommunication identification interception devices.
Ohrt is also charged with invasion of privacy and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
The investigation began on May 9, 2021, when a former student and choir member at Central Bucks West High School spoke to investigators about Ohrt, who worked as a teacher and choir director at the school.
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The young man, who graduated from Central Bucks in 2016, told police Ohrt began mentoring him in composing music during his junior year of high school. The man said some of Ohrt’s actions when they were alone made him feel uncomfortable and he described their relationship as “conflicted,” according to the criminal complaint.
The former student said Ohrt sometimes came up behind him and hugged him, told him he loved him and inappropriately touched him. The former student maintained a close relationship with Ohrt and moved into a bedroom at Ohrt’s house, according to investigators.
The former student told investigators he went with Ohrt to a Broadway show in New York when he was 19 and the two shared the same hotel room and bed during the trip. During that trip, Ohrt bought a bottle of wine that they both drank, investigators said.
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The former student also said he and Ohrt smoked marijuana and drank alcohol together during a trip to a choir convention in Kansas City. The former student told investigators he was awakened from his sleep when Ohrt put his hand down his pants. He said Ohrt also made sexual advances toward him but he turned him down. The former student told investigators that after the Kansas City trip, he believed Ohrt only befriended him in high school because he wanted a sexual relationship.
On Sept. 30, detectives went to Ohrt’s home in Buckingham Township. When no one answered their knocks, a Central Bucks Regional Police Detective left his business card at the door.
Nearly a month later, on Oct. 29, a young man who was living at Ohrt’s home came to the Central Bucks Regional Police Department with property he said Ohrt wanted him to destroy. The man told NBC10 he moved into a bedroom in Ohrt’s home at the start of 2021. He also said he found the business card the detective had left at the door. When he asked Ohrt why the card was there, Ohrt told him he didn’t know, according to investigators.
On Oct. 26, Ohrt allegedly told the man he needed him out of the house by the weekend without notice or further explanation.
The man told police he began loading his van the next day. As he packed, Ohrt gave him some bags and other items, including a laptop, to take with him, investigators said. Ohrt told the man he watched porn on the laptop but placed the computer underwater and asked him to dispose of everything in a “nonpublic manner,” investigators said. The man said he was suspicious of Ohrt and took the items to the police station.
Police said the bags contained a thong and boxer style underwear, a catholic schoolgirl uniform costume, an external hard drive, pieces of art and four hidden camera devices.
The FBI’s Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory determined the laptop had been placed in water but were able to retrieve information from the computer and external hard drive which contained numerous pornographic images and videos, investigators said. Detectives also reviewed two memory cards found in the hidden cameras, one of which contained audio and video of Ohrt’s former student naked and changing his clothes, according to officials.
Ohrt was arraigned with bail set at $50,000, 10 percent. He was also ordered to have no contact with the victim or anyone mentioned in the affidavit and he cannot be alone with anyone under the age of 18.
Detectives continue to review the pornographic images and videos. The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office is asking any other potential victims of Ohrt to come forward by calling the Central Bucks Regional Police Department at 215-345-4143 or Bucks County Detectives at 215-348-6354. You can also submit a tip through the Bucks County CrimeWatch website.
Ohrt retired from Central Bucks West High School following a leave of absence last year, according to a spokesperson for the Central Bucks School District.