This story contains references to child abuse and exploitation that may be troubling to some readers.
On Tuesday, Jace Wong, an employee of Mission Head Start, a daycare in the Women’s Building, was texting freely on the video-sharing app Kik about secretly recording naked children.
Little did Wong know that the person on the other end was an undercover FBI agent — and the agent had allegedly observed Wong film girls as young as four in the bathroom in the preceding days, and was aware that Wong had allegedly sent that footage to a group of people on the app.
“Are you looking to trade content?” Wong asked the undercover agent during the Tuesday text exchange.
“How u get those vids?” the agent replied.
“I took them,” Wong said. “Have any vids of your daughter? Old or current.”
“I’m setting up some spycams,” the agent replied. “We started at 7 but never thot to film it back then.”
“You could always play with her in her sleep,” Wong replied.
The horrifying conversation continued, according to an FBI criminal complaint filed Wednesday, and Wong ended up sending the agent a 36-second video of a girl between the ages of “4 and 6” pulling her pants down and exposing herself.
The FBI agent traced Wong’s location and, not long after, observed Wong leave the building and take a bus. After Wong exited the bus, FBI agents arrested Wong without incident.
On Wednesday, Wong, 26, was charged with possession of child pornography, a crime that carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was arraigned in federal court on Thursday.
Richard Ybarra, the CEO of Mission Neighborhood Centers, which runs the daycare, said Wong had been teaching a 10-student classroom for “only a few weeks” and that the Women’s Building was his only work site.
“This is the first time that Mission Neighborhood Centers has faced such a tragic event,” he said. “We adhere to, as per licensing requirements, strict background check protocols prior to hiring teachers. The safety of our children and families is our utmost responsibility. We terminated the teacher.”
Nevertheless, he said the daycare is auditing its employee screening practices. “The FBI verified that our classroom is once again safe for our children and families,” he added. “We will continue to fight Child Sex Exploitation of any nature.”
On the evening Wong was arrested, he allegedly admitted to FBI agents at its San Francisco field office that he recorded at least three videos of children at Mission Head Start in the Women’s Building, according to the criminal complaint. He also allegedly showed agents his phone, which contained more than 400 videos and images that contained “images of minors engaged in sexually explicit content,” some of which were filmed at Mission Head Start, according to the complaint. One video showed an adult having sex with a minor.
The complaint does not explicitly name the “daycare,” but an FBI spokeswoman on Thursday confirmed the daycare was Mission Head Start, located at 3543 18th St., the Women’s Building.
Last Friday, the FBI observed Wong secretly record and distribute explicit images of young girls from a bathroom with “white and black floor tiles and beige dividers” four times via Kik under the username “anontransboi” in a chat called “Younger Love.”
Kik is a messaging app created by a company of the same name. For years, it has been an easy place for predators to exploit children and exchange child pornography.
On Tuesday evening, after Wong was in custody, the undercover agent visited the Women’s Building, whose staff voluntarily allowed the agent to perform a search.
The agent located the bathroom that matched what the agent had observed in the explicit videos. “Based on my review of the videos sent by Wong, and the bathroom I observed at the daycare center, I believe that the videos were produced at the daycare facility,” the agent wrote in the complaint.
Teresa Mejia, the executive director of the Women’s Building, which is not involved in the day-to-day operations of Mission Head Start and its hiring, said she and her staff are stunned and called the situation “horrible.”
“It’s very hard for us, and we have been cooperating with the FBI,” she said.
Mejia added in a statement that, since its founding five decades ago, the Women’s Building has been “a safe space for all individuals, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and race.”
“We are appalled to learn of the violation to the children and families involved in these events leading to arrest,” Mejia said. “Our hearts are with the families and communities affected by these terrible actions.”