A spokesman for the state agency that oversees the welfare of children was arrested Friday on charges that he solicited minors, at least one of whom may have been in state custody, to create pornography, authorities said.

Al Zimmerman of the state Department of Children & Families has been fired, agency officials said. The 40-year-old was charged with eight counts of using a child in a sexual performance and faces up to 120 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

"It's totally deplorable. There's absolutely no excuse for this. There were absolutely no indicators," Bob Butterworth, secretary of the department, told The Associated Press. "As all of us in the DCF, we were shocked and we were horrified."

A telephone message left on Zimmerman's cell phone was not immediately returned.

Authorities say Zimmerman solicited at least two victims in Tampa between ages 16 and 17 to create child pornography. The agency is fairly certain that one has been or is in state custody, Butterworth said.

Zimmerman was arrested in Lakeland, where his parents live, and booked in the Hillsborough County jail. Bond had not been set.

"Every photograph, every image, every lasting impression of a child's sexual abuse perpetuates this horrible crime over and over again," Attorney General Bill McCollum said in a statement.

The agency has been under criticism since 2002, when it was discovered that a Miami investigator had lied about visiting the foster parents of a 4-year-old girl. The girl had actually been missing for a year and has never been found.

More recently, former Secretary Lucy Hadi resigned after being found in contempt of court for not moving inmates to state hospitals if they were incompetent to stand trial. Before that, Jerry Regier left the position after an investigation showed he accepted favors from contractors. Regier had replaced Kathleen Kearney, who resigned after the 4-year-old disappeared.

Last year, a child protection task force criticized agency officials because a 2-year-old foster girl was missing for four months before police began searching for her.