The FBI on Friday arrested a St. Johns County private school teacher accused of trying to meet a teenager, who was actually an undercover agent, for sex, according to federal court records.
Matthew Christopher Yates, 27, is charged with attempted online enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, records show.
According to an 82-page criminal complaint, Yates is an eighth-grade teacher at Veritas Classical School in St. Augustine, a classical Christian school that teaches kindergarten through 10th grade.
On June 30, 2021, according to the complaint, an agent working undercover was trying to identify adults trying to make contact with teens for illegal sexual activity using a social media app. According to the complaint, there was a user who posted, “Any women want to be rated by a teacher?” The agent posed as a 14-year-old girl and started messaging with the user, the complaint states.
The complaint shows, on Feb. 11, when the agent was working undercover again, a user in a social media app with the name “English teacher” posted, “Any women want to be rated by a teacher?” The agent, posing as a 14-year-old girl, started messaging with him and then they moved to messaging via the Kik app for nearly two weeks before switching to texting, according to the complaint.
The complaint includes pages and pages of transcripts of their messages, some of which were vulgar.
In recent days, according to the complaint, Yates and the agent posing as a 14-year-old girl agreed to meet on Friday. When Yates went to the predetermined meeting location, agents spotted him in a Toyota 4Runner, arrested him and then took him to the FBI Jacksonville Field Office, the complaint states.
During his interview with the FBI, according to the complaint, he acknowledged that the various usernames were his and that he is employed at “Veritas.”
According to the complaint, he acknowledged that trying to meet a minor child for sex is illegal, and agents said he stated that he wanted “this,” which the agent “took to mean his arrest,” because he “wanted to be forced to be stopped.”
Yates said that he taught students from sixth through tenth grade and that he never fantasized about students, the complaint shows.
His LinkedIn profile says he has been a teacher at Veritas for two years. Yates’ biography was still on the Veritas website as of Monday morning. According to the website, Yates, who was listed as an eighth grade humanities teacher, has served as a youth leader in Longwood, Florida, and a camp counselor for a Christian Leadership Retreat. He also “enjoys pondering the role of language and the impact its proper and improper use has on us as individuals and as a society,” according to his biography.
News4JAX has reached out to Veritas and its board.
Our attempts to reach Yates have been unsuccessful. An attorney for Yates declined to comment.
Yates had a brief hearing Monday afternoon. A detention hearing was set for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. He’s being held at least until then.
If convicted, he could face 10 years to life in federal prison.
Toni Chrabot, CEO of Risk Confidence Group, is a former FBI agent. She says there are a number of apps predators use to try to contact children.
“It could be Snapchat. It could be Twitter. It could be, I think Hoop is another one,” Chrabot said. “This is a continuing problem for families and certainly for children.”
Chrabot says it’s tough for parents to keep track of who their children are speaking with on various apps, but there are things they can do.
“There certainly are other softwares available to parents, spyware if you will, where you can manage those accounts,” Chrabot said.