A substitute teacher at an Elizabeth middle school has been arrested and charged with engaging in a sexual relationship with a student, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.

Nataly Lopez, 27, of School No. 3, is charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.  

An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit was initiated Wednesday by a referral from the Elizabeth Police Department, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Meghan Tomlinson, who is prosecuting the case.

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The investigation, which was assisted by Elizabeth Police Sgt. Benny Carvalho, revealed that Lopez engaged in sexual acts with the student in her vehicle while in Elizabeth at least twice and also exchanged sexually explicit messages with him online over the course of several weeks, Tomlinson said.

Lopez, who is not an employee of Elizabeth Public Schools, but working for a vendor providing substitute teaching services to the district, was arrested without incident at her home Thursday afternoon and lodged in Union County Jail pending a first appearance.

Anyone with any additional information about Lopez’s activities is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Janet Lopez at 908-347-8491.

Convictions on first-degree crimes are commonly punishable by terms of 10 to 20 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.