WASHINGTON — Days after a co-worker at a Rockville, Maryland, gymnastics studio found a hidden camera disguised as a flash drive inside one of the facility’s bathrooms in February, the 21-year-old instructor who police say put it there searched for legal advice online.
“Caught using spy cam as employee in public restroom, what kind of lawyer do i need,” Cristian Gill typed into his iPhone’s internet search bar, police investigators said in charging documents.
Police say the camera, which was placed under a sink in a unisex bathroom at the Shockwave Allstars cheerleading studio, captured several dozen images of kids and adults sitting on the toilet, with their pants down, or changing — and also captured photos of Gill setting up the camera.
The instructor, who taught students one-on-one at the Rockville studio for two years, was arrested April 25 and has now been charged with 35 counts of visual surveillance with prurient intent and three counts of sex abuse of a minor, police announced Thursday.
An employee at the gymnastics facility reported finding a device that looked like a flash drive in the bathroom on Feb. 9, police said. The owner of the studio apparently thought it was a misplaced piece of tech equipment and advised leaving it near the studio’s computer until the owner could be located.
A few days later, police said, Gill requested a meeting with the gymnastics center owner, during which Gill told the owner the device was a camera he had placed inside the bathroom. However, Gill told the owner he hadn’t recorded anything.
The gym owner called police, who determined the device was a camera designed to avoid detection. Investigators searched Gill’s Silver Spring Home and seized a number of Gill’s electronic devices. Forensic analysis of a tablet turned up about 49 photos that had been taken inside the bathroom, police said. The photos contained images of both female and male juveniles and adults, according to police.
There had been even more photos and video files from inside the bathroom stored on the tablet, but they had been deleted, according to the forensic analysis.
A total of 14 people whose images were captured on the hidden camera have been identified, police said in the charging docs. Three of them were juveniles. Investigators said they believe they have identified all the victims that can be identified based on the photos.
According to the charging documents, Gill told police he had the camera for about two months and had set it up on the gym bathroom approximately 20 times. Gill also told police he took “upskirt” photos of women using his phone, the documents stated.
A search of Gill’s cellphone showed that before and after the meeting with his boss, Gill searched for information online about peeping tom laws, according to the charging docs: “What happens if you record a public bathroom with a spy cam … what kind of jail do you go to for violating video cam laws.”
Police also said the found an unsent letter in the Notes app on Gill’s phone.
“You cannot imagine how much I am sorry to you for making you feel so uncomfortable. But understand that I never looked at anything that was recorded. I don’t even know if it worked,” he wrote in the note, according to the charging documents.
The note also said: “I’m not a pig or pervert or anything like that. I’m just a guy that should’ve gone to college instead of making money and decisions.”
Gill was scheduled for a bond review Thursday.
Police ask anyone with information about the case to call the Special Victims Investigations Division detectives at 240-773-5400. Callers who want to remain anonymous can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.