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Police: Father hid 'pinhole spy camera' in gymnastics center bathroom

Jonathan Oldale, 54, of Bethesda, is charged with one count of visual surveillance-prurient intent. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Police Department)

While two siblings attended gymnastics class, their father placed a hidden camera inside the facility’s restroom in hopes of recording children, Montgomery County police say.

Authorities have charged Jonathan Oldale, 54, of Bethesda, with one count of visual surveillance-prurient intent.

According to court documents, on the evening of May 5, an employee at the Silver Stars Gymnastics and Fitness Club in Silver Spring located a backpack stashed underneath a wet floor sign in a lobby-area unisex restroom. The sign was positioned directly in front of the sole toilet.

Upon closer review, the employee spotted a “pinhole spy camera” poking through an opening in the backpack. The camera was “hot to the touch” and disguised to look like an automobile key fob. The device was emitting a bright light and had “hot glue” around the tiny lens, presumably to secure it to the book bag.

The unusual discovery reminded the male employee of a similar incident only three weeks earlier. In that case, the employee spotted a backpack positioned in the exact same area. The bag was filled with a variety of cords and wires. The employee carried the backpack into the gym’s lobby area, at which point Oldale quickly claimed it.

During the second instance, the employee seized the “spy camera” but left the backpack underneath the wet floor sign. A short while later, Oldale allegedly retrieved the bag and approached the front desk to ask if anyone had turned in a key fob. Staff told him no. Oldale returned to the desk two more times, the first time to inquire again about the fob, and the second to notify staff that he had located the missing item.

Four days later, Montgomery County police combed through Oldale’s home and vehicles – search and seizure warrant in hand. They located an instruction manual for a key fob camera and an ACER laptop in one of the vehicles. During an extensive data dig, Montgomery County’s digital forensics team says it recovered two disturbing videos on one of the confiscated computers. The videos allegedly show “female school girls” urinating. Police believe Oldale downloaded the videos from the Internet and was attempting to create a personal collection of similar pornography at his children’s gymnastics center.

Investigators explain spy cameras burn photos and videos to an SD card, but they also often transmit data via Bluetooth and/or WiFi technology. Investigators add that Oldale frequently sat in the gymnastic center’s waiting area, glued to his laptop computer during his children’s three-hour classes.

“What dad would sit in the lobby and do something like that?" said Cherie Hope, owner of Silver Stars Gymnastics. “It’s a sad situation when people use technology for awful things.”

Hope launched her gymnastics business in 1993, with the goal of enriching the lives of not only Olympics-bound athletes but all children. Today, her Silver Spring location instructs around 1,800 kids each week. When WJLA spoke with Hope Friday afternoon about Oldale's arrest, the stress of the entire ordeal was clearly visible on her face.

“I asked the police, 'What should I have done in this instance?' And they said, 'You did everything that you should have done.' I mean, this camera could have been placed anywhere."

Hope explains that upon contacting Montgomery County police, investigators told her to stay quiet until charges were formally lodged against Oldale. The investigation took five long months. She vows safety of children has always been paramount within the confines of her facility.

“We spend a lot of time teaching our employees protocol on how to handle unique situations, and I am really proud that they saw something and didn’t let it go. They did the right thing by calling me and police," Hope added.

According to court documents, Oldale was born in London but has resided in Maryland for more than three years. Oldale is married with two children. He lives in a split-level home along Greystone Street in Chevy Chase. Court documents list his occupation as “author” for “One World Publishing.”

A call to a phone number listed in a neighborhood directory for Oldale was not immediately returned. Court records do not indicate who is representing him. The 54-year-old’s next court date is scheduled for December 14 at 8:30 a.m. in Montgomery County District Court. He faces up to one-year in prison.

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