Teacher from LI accused of making students send cards to felon

A Queens teacher from Long Island is under fire for allegations that she forced her fifth-grade students to make holiday cards for a pen pal

ISLAND PARK - A Queens teacher from Long Island is under fire for allegations that she forced her fifth-grade students to make holiday cards for a pen pal who's in the pen. Melissa Dean, of Island Park, is under investigation for allegedly assigning P.S. 143 students to make holiday cards for her convicted felon boyfriend, who was once charged with possessing child pornography. Investigators say that back in December, 31-year-old Dean told her students the cards would be sent to people without family or friends. Instead, investigators say the crayon-colored cards were sent to John Coccarelli, who is serving time upstate after being busted in Nassau County on weapons and child pornography charges. According to an official report, Dean sent a total of 27 cards and encouraged her students to include their names and addresses so they could receive cards in return.Authorities say the cards were intercepted by a corrections officer who deemed the mail inappropriate due to Coccarelli's criminal history. The Nassau District Attorney's Office says Coccarelli took a deal to only plead guilty to the weapons charge, which ensured a longer prison sentence than the child pornography charge.

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