A government employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Florida was arrested for threatening a 12-year-old girl to send him nude photos, then to share them with other classmates.
The months-long investigation into Thomas Zayas – a 45-year-old father – involving the FBI, VA investigators and the Orlando local sheriff’s office is described in federal court documents.
Zayas allegedly impersonated an online character, “Romeo,” on WhatsApp and tried to entice a high school girl into a predatory sexual relationship last summer. When the girl refused his progress, he then allegedly created another account – the fake sister of Romeo “Millie”, an aggressive MMA fighter – to threaten the girl to send photos her nude. Weeks later, those photos were circulated to other students along with accusations of bullying that the girl had a sexually transmitted disease.
When the school principal and the police got involved, a lengthy investigation from three different law enforcement agencies eventually singled out Zayas, a VA agent based in Orlando. The phone number in the WhatsApp message chat belonged to Zayas, and the flowers he bought for her were ordered online using his government computer, the FBI stated in an affidavit. When the Orange County Sheriff’s Office raided his apartment in January, investigators say they found a phone that Zayas used for separate personal management.
Although Zayas denied everything in a taped interview, investigators believe he changed his tune when they stopped recording. He allegedly admitted that the whole thing started out as a “joke”, but when the girl “cut off” Romeo, Zayas felt he needed to teach [her] a lesson.”
“Zayas declared, ‘I’m a total loser,’ and claimed that he had not had a date in the six years since his wife left him,” the FBI affidavit said.
He was arrested Friday, according to Glamarys Beltran, the estranged mother of three of his children.
“Papa, el está jodido [he’s fucked],” she told The Daily Beast when reached on Monday. “He was very manipulative and mentally and emotionally abusive,” she said in an interview in Spanish.
Beltran confirmed some details of the incident to The Daily Beast, recounting her conversation Friday with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Eddie Turso, who worked on the case and is also named in the documents.
Beltran, who split from Zayas and fought him for custody of their children, claims her own relationship with him began under questionable circumstances when she was 18 and living at home with her father. mom. They met online and she remembers him saying he’s 23 but later finds out that he’s actually 31.
“I feel dirty. I feel horrible. I asked myself, ‘Why?’ But a month later, I found out I was pregnant. I never said anything because I was young. When women are young, they are scared,” she said.
Calls to the FBI, VA and local sheriff’s office were not returned Monday during the President’s Day holiday. Calls to Zayas are not answered, as he is currently in custody. He doesn’t have a defense attorney listed on federal court records yet.