CARLSBAD, Calif. — A former Carlsbad teacher and youth hockey coach was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison in a federal court on Tuesday for his role in a scheme to bait children into sending sexually explicit images and circulate them online.

Daniel Zachary Dasko, 32, pleaded guilty to one count relating to the distribution of images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct in April. He is currently out on bond and was ordered to report to prison on Oct. 3., the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Along with at least two other individuals across the country, Dasko targeted minors on social media while posing as adolescent girls to prompt them to send sexually explicit material of themselves.

Several of the minors, prosecutors say, were selected because the former substitute and teacher’s aide provided their names and online information to his coconspirators.

“This defendant is a sexual predator who used his position as a teacher and coach to inform his sexual interests and to target kids for online abuse,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Haden. “His job was to educate and protect children. Instead, he exploited them. We will do everything in our power protect children and hold offenders accountable.”

Dasko was arrested at his home in July of last year after his participation in the online ploy to child sexual abuse material was identified by Federal Bureau of Investigation officials during the course of another investigation.

In July 2021, FBI officials in Philadelphia received a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children regarding a man uploading child sexual abuse material. The subject was identified as a teacher in the Philadelphia area.

A search warrant was then executed for the Philadelphia man’s home. A review of his iPhone was also conducted, revealing numerous conversations with other individuals regarding sexually explicit material involving minors. This included discussion about trading images amongst the group and tricking minors into sending sexually explicit images or videos of themselves.

According to the U.S. Attorney, the Philadelphia teacher and his coconspirators would pose as adolescent women on social media sites to chat with the victims and then transfer their communications to a social media application that allowed them to exchange them.

One of the people in this group was a person using the screen name “Mr. Pickles.” Prosecutors said that upon Dasko’s arrest, he waived his Miranda Rights and admitted to being “Mr. Pickles.”

Under the handle, authorities found that Dasko exchanged over 3,600 messages with the Philadelphia man, including numerous images and videos depicting children being sexually abused.

The vast majority, however, were part of conversations about sexually exploiting children the two either knew or met online. They discussed at length and in “graphic, disturbing detail” their attraction to young boys and attempts to “catfish” them, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

After his arrest, coaches at the San Diego Ice Arena confirmed that he helped coach two 12-under teams.

“Crimes involving sexually exploiting children are especially disgusting and disturbing,” said FBI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “I’m proud of the hard work conducted by our agents and law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice for their abhorrent behavior.”