NEW CUMBERLAND - A former New Cumberland and Chester police officer has turned himself in on a felony warrant alleging he sent a nude picture of himself via cellphone to a 16-year-old girl, according to documents filed in Hancock County Magistrate Court.
Eric Maruca, 26, of New Cumberland faces one count of distributing obscene matter to a minor, a felony that can bring a fine of up to $25,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.
Maruca turned himself in on Monday and appeared before Magistrate Michael White, who set bond at $5,000. Maruca posted 10 percent and must appear again in court at 9 a.m. Friday.
Maruca is accused of sending the picture of his exposed genitals to the girl on Sept. 7 or 8, after a mutual friend suggested the girl was "in love" with him and was interested in a sexual encounter, according to a complaint filed by Hancock County Sheriff's Detective Matt Harvey.
Previously an officer with the New Cumberland Police Department, Maruca was hired by the Chester Police Department in July. He was placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 27 after Chester Police Chief Ken Thorn learned that Maruca was being investigated by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
Chester City Council fired Maruca on Oct. 21.
Maruca first came under suspicion when Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Connors received a call from a woman identifying herself as the mother of a 16-year-old girl who allegedly had been solicited for sexually explicit pictures of herself. The woman also said Maruca had sent pictures of himself to her daughter, the complaint said.
The sheriff's department's investigation revealed that the girl, identified only by her initials, had been approached by a female friend about having a sexual encounter with Maruca, according to the complaint. After getting Maruca's cell phone number, the two began texting each other, the complaint said.
After about a week, Maruca allegedly propositioned the girl to send him nude pictures of herself, the complaint said. The girl told investigators that she had been coaxed into having the pictures taken and sending them via cell phone to Maruca, according to the complaint.
Maruca allegedly reciprocated, sending a picture of himself in a gray tank top and shorts, and a close-up picture of his genitals, the complaint said. Maruca allegedly told the girl the pictures were necessary so they could be more comfortable once they met for sex, according to the complaint.
Connors and Harvey questioned Maruca on Sept. 10, at which time Maruca allegedly acknowledged the texting relationship, the complaint said.
Records for Maruca's and the girl's cell phone accounts were subpoenaed from TextMe Inc., a text messaging application, and the West Virginia State Police conducted a forensic investigation of the text messages.
Maruca told investigators that the girl told him she was 17 and that her birthday was in November, the complaint said.
The case was taken to Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis last week, and a warrant for Maruca's arrest was issued on Wednesday.