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Former teacher, fugitive sentenced to 10 years on child pornography charge

Yusef Alhakk spent five years on the run.

A federal judge ended that run Wednesday by sending the former Buffalo teacher-turned-child-porn-felon to prison for 10 years.

"He admitted to having images of prepubescent children, some of them under the age of 12, on his home computer," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie P. Grisanti.

Alhakk's sentence ends a six-year prosecution of the former Bennett High School social studies teacher and safe schools advocate.

Arrested in 2005, Alhakk fled the country after being released and remained on the loose until he was captured in California last December as he tried to re-enter the United States.

Alhakk, according to Grisanti, spent his five years as a fugitive in Thailand.

"This is a country that is known for its child sex industry, and it's interesting that's the place he chose to go to," Grisanti told The Buffalo News.

Alhakk, 67, pleaded guilty in July to receiving child pornography and, as part of his plea deal, admitted having more than 600 images of child pornography on his computer.

The former teacher was working at Bennett High and actively involved in a campaign to stop school violence at the time of his arrest in 2005.

Known at one time as Joseph Daniels, he also had a criminal record before he was hired by the Buffalo Public Schools in 2002.

Law enforcement officials said his record included a gun possession arrest in 1962 and a robbery conviction in 1977. He was later allowed to teach because the courts decided he was rehabilitated.

"The district performed all the requisite background checks, based on state standards, before he was hired," a school spokesman said at the time. "And he passed those standards."

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said the case against Alhakk was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to fight child sexual exploitation.

He said Alhakk's sentencing also was the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and United States Marshals Service.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com