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22 Jul 2023
Andy Rose

NextImg:26-year-old allegedly enrolled in Nebraska high school and sent sexually explicit text messages to underage students, police say | CNN

CNN  — 

A 26-year-old man is charged with sex crimes after enrolling in a public school district in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he pretended to be 17, police say.

Zachary Scheich was arrested Thursday and faces two counts of sexual assault with use of an electronic communication device, which includes any attempt to “knowingly solicit, coax, entice or lure” a child 16 years or younger to engage in sexual activity, according to the Lincoln Police Department. Scheich is also charged with one count of sex trafficking of a minor.

Scheich allegedly attended two high schools in the Lincoln school district during the last academic year, attending classes for approximately 54 days, police say.

“The district had been alerted about an individual impersonating a student who had been enrolled under the name of Zak Hess,” the Lincoln Police Department said in a written statement.

Scheich was first enrolled at Northwest High School during the first semester of the 2022-2023 academic year and then transferred to Southeast High School during the second semester, police noted in the statement.

During a news conference Friday, Lincoln Public Schools superintendent Paul Gausman said Scheich had enrolled by submitting a birth certificate, an out-of-district high school transcript and immunization records.

“All those documents turned out to be fraudulent,” said Gausman.

Zachary Scheich

The documents were submitted to the school online without a parent present, associate superintendent Matt Larson said. The online enrollment process is “something we are considering changing,” he said.

An arrest warrant obtained by CNN affiliate KOLN says police gained access to Scheich’s cell phone during a search of his home and “found text messages exchanged between Scheich and minor females.”

Police found sexually explicit messages sent to a 14-year-old female student, they said. Scheich also allegedly texted a 13-year-old girl to discuss “meeting up for sex.”

During an interview with authorities, Scheich allegedly admitted to pretending to be a student at the school and sending explicit messages to children but said he did not sexually assault any of them.

“We’ve identified a number of people who are victims,” superintendent Gausman said, but declined to give an exact number.

Bond for Scheich was set at $250,000 during a court hearing Friday, KOLN reported. Scheich did not enter a plea and did not have an attorney. CNN reached out to the public defender’s office for comment Friday.

CNN’s Jennifer Feldman and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.