Nude pictures prompt charges
By DEBORAH O'NEIL
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001
PALM HARBOR -- For young girls and their families, it starts off innocently enough, authorities say.
A man passes himself off as a photographer who can help a girl launch a modeling career. He does legitimate photo shoots, even weddings.
But in at least one case, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says, a man took nude pictures of an underage girl and sexually battered her.
On Thursday, Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies arrested Damon Salvatore Agostino, 29, of New Port Richey on charges of lewd and lascivious battery, sexual performance by a child and lewd and lascivious conduct. His victim was a 15-year-old girl who had known him for more than a year, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Greg Tita said.
Agostino was being held Friday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $60,000 bail.
Authorities said they found lists with dozens of teenage girls' names, addresses and ages when they searched his New Port Richey home at 7215 Bromley Drive Thursday night. The Sheriff's Office believes more crimes have been committed, Tita said.
"We're sure we have many more victims out there," Tita said.
According to Agostino's arrest affidavit, he took sexually explicit photos of the girl and sexually battered her on Dec. 14 at a Palm Harbor hotel. The family lived in Palm Harbor at the time, Tita said, but they have since moved from Pinellas County.
The charges against Agostino came about after the 15-year-old's mother retrieved e-mails he sent to her daughter that the mother deemed inappropriate. The girl's parents knew Agostino, Tita said, because he had taken legitimate photos of her.
Agostino ran the photography business under the name Deez Photography as a sideline to his career as a pharmaceutical analyst, Tita said. The Deez Photography Web site lists a post office box in Odessa and notes the company has locations in New Port Richey and South Tampa.
The Web site indicates Deez Photography has been in business since 1995 and is the official photographers of Tampa Bay All-stars Cheerleading and Brandon All-stars Cheerleading.
"Damon has been a photographer since 1989 and has worked as a photojournalist, photographed the NFL as well as many collegiate and high school sports for many years," the Web site says.
Tita said Agostino went into America Online chat rooms using fake names and pretended to be a teenage girl praising Agostino. Detectives retrieved the pseudonyms Damon A, Skipper 15 and Swiper 1900 from his computer, Tita said.
"He'd get in the chat rooms and pretend he was a 15-year-old and say how great Agostino was and (how) he's going to make my career take off," Tita said. "All the while, it's him."
Then he'd go online as Damon A, a photographer looking for girls interested in modeling.
Investigators are interested in talking with anyone who has encountered Agostino. Call Detective Matt Miller at 582-6345.
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