A caseworker for the state agency charged with safeguarding the welfare of New Jersey's children has been charged with possession of child pornography.

Trent Collier, 55, of Kearny, was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport after arriving on a flight from the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig issued a statement saying police searched his luggage and found a tablet and cellphone.

"A forensic search of both devices identified at least two images of child sexual abuse depicting prepubescent children," Honig said.

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Based on an analysis of the phone, federal investigators allege Collier sent child pornography via message on WhatsApp.

What is not clear is why Collier was targeted for a search. The U.S. Attorney did not say if he was suspected of any criminal activity before leaving for the Dominican Republic or while in that country.

According to the criminal complaint, Collier admitted to federal agents that he had both sent and received images of child pornography to at least one other person using his cell phone.

The U.S. Attorney identified Collier as a caseworker for the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency but did not say specifically what he did for the agency. Caseworkers typically do have interaction with at-risk children and their families either in their homes or institutional setting.

There has been no allegation that the pornographic images were obtained in connection with Collier's work for DCF.

After an initial appearance before a federal Magistrate, Collier was released on $50,000 unsecured bond.

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Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

The follow individuals were arrested over the past several years. Some have been convicted and sentenced to prison, while others have accepted plea deals for probation.

Others cases are still pending, including some court delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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