Alleged Child Pornographer Was 'Model Employee'

Man passed all background checks; was never left alone with children, Boy Scout officials say

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The 47-year-old man who had worked at a Payson Boy Scout camp for more than two months before being arrested Aug. 7 by the FBI on a California warrant involving child pornography was never alone with Scouts, according to a top-ranking Boy Scout official.

Larry Abbott, scout executive and chief executive officer of the Grand Canyon Chapter for the Boy Scouts of America said Wesley Elvis Peden, 47, who was living in Cottonwood at the time of his arrest, was an employee at Camp Geromino for a little more than two months.

Abbott said Peden was working on the climbing towers at the camp, and was never left alone when Boy Scouts were present, according to official policy.

By the rules, Boy Scout leaders and camp workers must always work in pairs.

"We require two adults when children are around," he said.

He said there have been no reports from anyone that something happened at the camp during Peden's time there.

Abbott said he has spoken to Peden's supervisor, who called the former worker a "model employee."

Peden would not have been hired if the background check had revealed the warrant that was out for his arrest, he said.

When any adult registers or applies to work with the Boy Scouts of America, a federal background check is completed.

"We found there was nothing on his record," Abbott said. The background check on Peden might not have registered his criminal history if he had not yet been convicted.

Peden is being charged with visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and possession of one or more items having depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Peden, if convicted, faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years with a $250,000 fine on both counts.

If anyone has information about inappropriate behavior that may have occurred during Peden's time at Camp Geronimo, contact the FBI or the Cottonwood Police Department.

The FBI Phoenix office can be reached by calling (602) 279-5511, and the Cottonwood Police Department can be reached at (928)634-4246.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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