ATTLEBORO — A doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford allegedly brought a 14-year-old Attleboro boy to a Seekonk motel, rented a room and paid the boy $200 for sex after exchanging nude photos with him, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Dr. Sujan Kayastha, 37, who is married, allegedly engaged the boy in sexually explicit conversations and exchanged nude photos through the social media app SnapChat several times in September and October before bringing him to the Shang-ri La Motel in Seekonk in December, Assistant District Attorney Jose Vazquez said in Attleboro District Court.
Kayastha, who was relieved of his duties at St. Luke’s after his arrest Wednesday night, was ordered held in jail on $75,000 cash or $750,000 surety bail.
“He confessed to officers. He acknowledged that he did contact this person over SnapChat. He acknowledged going to Attleboro to pick up this person and bring him to the Shang-ri La hotel in Seekonk,” Vazquez said during a bail hearing.
The prosecutor said the evidence against Kayastha was “overwhelming” and said the defendant admitted to police that “he had a deviant sexual interest in tweens.” Tweens are children generally between 9 and 14.
Kayastha arranged to meet the boy at McDonald’s on Pleasant Street on Dec. 6 and sent him a photo showing his face, telling the boy he drove a Honda CRV. Kayastha allegedly offered the boy nitrate inhalants, also known as “poppers,” during their encounter, Vazquez said.
When they arrested Kayastha at his Dartmouth home, police seized his cellphone which was logged on to “rigor009” on SnapChat, the screen name he allegedly used to communicate with the boy, Vazquez said.
Police also seized other electronics in addition to alcohol, alleged narcotics and inhalants. An initial forensic examination of electronic devices seized from Kayastha allegedly contain child pornography, according to police.
During his argument, Vazquez said Kayastha allegedly had images of child pornography on external computer storage devices and may have shared them, but said it was unclear if he showed them to others in person or disseminated them online.
He also said the investigation was continuing and that additional charges, including aggravated statutory rape, may be filed against the defendant.
Innocent pleas were automatically entered by the court to charges of trafficking a person under 18 for sexual servitude, possession of child pornography and two counts each of disseminating obscene matter to a minor and electronic enticement of a child for prostitution.
The trafficking charge carries a maximum penalty to 20 years in prison.
A lawyer representing the doctor for the arraignment, Marybeth Hopkins of Wrentham, said he plans to “vigorously” fight the charges against him. She said he is from Nepal and that his wife of five years was in court supporting him.
The wife, Sweksha Batajoo, had no comment for reporters as she left court.
The investigation began in December when staff at the group home in Attleboro where the boy lives suspected he was being sexually abused and discovered sexually explicit photos, videos and conversations on his cellphone in addition to the $200 cash, according to a police report.
The group home, which The Sun Chronicle is not identifying to protect the identity of the boy, notified police and spoke to Detective Joseph Daday. The boy denied receiving money for sex or for nude photos of himself, according to a police report.
Daday obtained search warrants for the boy’s phone and social media accounts during an extensive investigation that led to the identity of the doctor and subsequent arrest with the assistance of a federal agent from Homeland Security Investigations. Dartmouth police also assisted, according to Attleboro Police Chief Kyle Heagney.
“Law enforcement recognizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children as a disturbing, growing trend,” Heagney said in a statement Thursday.
“Therefore, the identification, interdiction, and apprehension of those that are engaged in this behavior is one of the missions assigned to Detective Daday as the Attleboro police department juvenile detective. His determination and skill in bringing this particular investigation to a successful conclusion is commendable,” Heagney said.
The boy is in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families and lives at the group home. A spokeswoman for DCF said the agency received the report and is investigating. She declined to comment further citing state and federal privacy requirements.
A spokesman for St. Luke’s issued a statement saying, “We are disturbed to learn of the allegations and arrest of Dr. Sujan Kayastha. Dr. Kayastha has immediately been relieved of his duties pending review of this matter. We are unable to comment further at this time.”
Kayastha practices internal medicine and has been licensed in Massachusetts since 2012, according to the state Board of Registration in Medicine. He received his medical degree in 2006 from Nepal Medical College and has no prior criminal record or record of discipline at any health facility, according to the board.