A diminutive 5 foot 4, 120-pound, 26-year-old man who appears to have blended in with high school students faces sex assault charges after allegedly impersonating a 17-year-old junior at two high schools in Nebraska’s state capital, police said.
Zachary Scheich, also known as Zak Hess, faces three felony charges — two counts of sexual assault, use of an electronic device and one count of sex trafficking of a minor, the Lincoln Police Department said in a news release.
The case came to light on June 1, when police launched a fraud investigation after being contacted by Lincoln Public Schools alerting authorities about an enrollee named Zak Hess, officials said. The suspect, who graduated from Lincoln Public Schools in 2015, attended about 54 total days of school, officials said.
He allegedly contacted multiple students under his phony name. In one case, he allegedly sent sexually explicit texts and tried to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex and paid her money for her to send him a nude selfie, according to ABC Omaha affiliate KETV.
Scheich was arrested on Thursday at a city library, police said.
“He attended school as a student, he attended classes. That was the initial investigation,” Assistant Chief Brian Jackson said in a news conference. “And as the investigation progressed, we learned of additional contacts he had with juvenile students.”
He allegedly admitted to impersonating a student and sending sexually explicit messages but denied sexually assaulting the victims, KETV reported, citing an arrest affidavit.
Authorities were interviewing additional potential victims to determine the scope of the case and asked anyone who interacted with Scheich or may have been a victim to come forward.
“I’ve been in the district for 10 years, and this is the first time that I can remember something like this happening,” Lincoln Public Schools Director of Security Joe Wright told ABC Lincoln affiliate KLKN.
Students were baffled.
“I never thought twice about the kid,” one told KETV.
“Just walking in the halls, like a normal student,” another student said, the station reported.
School officials said he enrolled online with “well-crafted fraudulent documents,” prompting them to review the process.
“This individual provided a birth certificate, a high school transcript, immunization records and a physical from a clinic, and it turns out all those appear to be fraudulent,” said Matt Larson, the associate superintendent for educational services at Lincoln Public Schools, in a news conference. “The documents are not verified. We take students’ words for these documents.”
In an email to parents, Lincoln Public Schools said the district received a report about the pretender on May 31 and immediately contacted Lincoln police.
The district’s email said the suspect began attending Northwest High School on Oct. 20, 2022, then transferred to Southeast High School on Jan. 12 this year.
Online booking information from the Lancaster County Department of Corrections shows his bail was $250,000.
During a hearing in court on Friday, he was also ordered to have no contact with anyone under 18, KETV reported.
It was unclear Saturday whether he had an attorney.
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Zachary Scheich faces sex trafficking charges
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