Girl reports sexual abuse after watching 'Law and Order' episode

Robert Shapiro. (Photo: Montgomery County Police Department)

CLARKSBURG, Md. (WJLA) – A prominent businessman, athletic coach and former PTA member is under arrest on allegations of child sex abuse.

Montgomery County Police say Robert Shapiro, 53, of Clarksburg, photographed and molested a 12-year-old girl whose mother worked as the family house cleaner and nanny.

According to charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, Shapiro planted a tiny camera in the main floor bathroom of his $800,000 home located along the 13000 block of St. Clair Road.

Last March, the family nanny, whom ABC 7 News is not identifying, says she received an email from Shapiro with a photo attachment of her daughter in underwear, changing into a shirt. The nanny reported the troubling correspondence to Shapiro's wife, who confronted her husband in a state of "shock." Police say the 53-year-old admitted to placing the camera in the bathroom and the couple filed for divorce shortly thereafter.

In December, the nanny and her daughter were watching an episode of “Law and Order” that involved sexual abuse. The nanny asked her daughter if anyone had ever inappropriately touched her, to which the girl reportedly replied, "Rob did it." Her mother contacted police to report her daughter's confession.

Detectives with the Special Victims Unit interviewed the girl, who claimed that on at least one occasion, Shapiro took her to a secluded basement bedroom. Shapiro, a part-time personal trainer, reportedly pulled out a nerve stimulator machine and placed sensors on the girl's bare chest, hips and buttocks. Shapiro is also accused of snapping digital photos of the unclothed girl claiming he, "wanted to remember where he kept the [sensor] tabs."

"Everybody kind of thought he was weird, but had no idea that he would be a child predator," Shapiro's neighbor, Lori Roche, remarked. "He was a member of the [Little Bennett] Elementary School PTA, he was a member of the [Greater Clarksburg] Chamber of Commerce. He was getting involved with the Clarksburg Sports Association, so this is a man that put himself out there in positions to be around children."

Now in mid-divorce, Shapiro, a mortgage banker by trade, is temporarily living at his boss' $3.6 million Potomac mansion along the 9900 block of Newhall Road.

A father of two young children himself, Shapiro could not be reached for comment Wednesday. However, his Silver Spring-based defense attorney, James Papirmeister, told ABC 7 News:

"This man is innocent and he vehemently denies the allegation. Under our law, the police are able to arrest and charge someone based solely on the allegation of one person, no matter what that person's age, intelligence or background is, and without regard to the personal events and circumstances that may currently exist in the life of the person who is charged. While that is enough to have a person charged, it is not enough for them to be convicted. The place where this man's reputation will be restored and his name cleared is in court."

In September, a 17-year-old neighbor girl told Montgomery County Police that Shapiro photographed and molested her earlier in the year. However, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office later dropped all charges, citing a lack of evidence. The girl's parents are now hopeful investigators will re-examine the case in light of the new allegations.

"It's disgusting. I don't ever want to see him again and I hope he goes to jail," Roche concluded.

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