A Lincoln Park High School teacher was ordered held in lieu of $750,000 bail Thursday for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy he met online.
The victim is not a student at the North Side school, Cook County prosecutors said.
Benjamin Zollo — who has taught at Lincoln Park for a year — met the boy on the “Kik” instant messaging application between September and October, authorities said.
The boy told Zollo he was 15. Zollo, 32, told the boy he was 26, and the two exchanged pictures, Assistant State’s Attorney Karisa Flores said. Zollo also used a fake name for his profile, Flores said.
After a month of corresponding on the Internet, the two agreed to meet in person, Flores said. The boy came to Zollo’s home in the 1900 block of North Oakley where the two watched movies.
At some point, Zollo put his arm around the boy, touched his thigh and asked the minor to unbutton his pants, Flores said. The boy just stared. So Zollo undid the boy’s pants and ended up performing oral sex on the boy, Flores said. The boy also performed the sex act on Zollo and two eventually had sex in Zollo’s bedroom, Flores said.
For the next three months, the two allegedly met every two weeks at Zollo’s home for sexual encounters. Often, Zollo would smoke marijuana and offer it to the teen, who declined, Flores said.
At one point, the boy saw Zollo’s pay stub from the Chicago Public Schools and confronted Zollo for using a fake name, Flores said.
Zollo told the boy to stop “looking him up” and the relationship continued to New Year’s Eve, Flores said. Zollo wanted to spend the holiday together and when the boy’s parent’s said he couldn’t stay out all night, he sneaked out of the house, Flores said.
Zollo picked the boy up and they went back to the teacher’s home where they had sex, ate pizza and watched TV, Flores said.
Zollo gave the boy beer and offered him pot, Flores said.
At midnight, they had champagne.
The two ended up falling asleep at Zollo’s place and when they woke up, Zollo performed a sex act on the boy, Flores said.
Zollo drove the boy home the next day. The victim’s parents, frantic, had called police to notify them that their son was missing. When the boy’s father confronted him, the teenager came clean about what had been going on.
Police contacted the school’s assistant principal, and Zollo was escorted out of the school on Wednesday, according to a police report.
Zollo, who was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, is a graduate of Highland Park High School, his attorney said.
He also has a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a master’s from National Louis University.
Zollo, a member of a local synagogue, is also a student adviser of many school groups at Lincoln Park, including the Muslim Students Association, his lawyer said.
According to Lincoln Park High School’s website, Zollo taught social studies. Messages left with Chicago Public Schools and the high school were not immediately returned Thursday.
Contributing: Jordan Owen