Irwindale pays $2.75 million settlement to girl molested by ex-police officer

IRWINDALE >> Irwindale paid a $2.75 million settlement on Thursday to a young woman who was molested as a teenager by an Irwindale police officer for more than a year while she served as a police Explorer Scout.
The civil suit stems from the conviction of former Irwindale police officer Daniel R. Camerano, who pleaded “no contest” in late-2014 to a series of sex crimes for his molestation of the then-14-year-old girl, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, between May of 2009 and December of 2010.
Camerano, who was also accused of sending sexually suggestive texts messages to another 17-year-old female Explorer Scout in 2012, was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
The girl subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city and the police department. The settlement was reached shortly before trial was scheduled to begin,” according to the plaintiff’s Pasadena-based attorney, Anthony DeMarco. A settlement agreement was reached last month.
“The abuse of my client occurred because of a culture of acceptance of sexual abuse and harassment of girls and women that was allowed to persist in the Irwindale Police Department,” DeMarco said in a written statement. “She, like others, was forced to endure sexual abuse and harassment in silence or risk losing her dream of a career in law enforcement.”
The attorney further alleged that police officials failed to act after learning of the sexual abuse, which took place during “ride-alongs” with the officer, who served as an advisor to the Irwindale Police Department’s Explorer program.
“In the victim’s civil action against the City of Irwindale, evidence was uncovered that Police department officials were aware of complaints that Camerano was sexually abusing the underage female Explorer, but did not stop his access to and, thus, continued abuse of the girl.”
“She was being sexually molested in the station over and over,” DeMarco said. “The police station… It’s not big. They have cameras down every hallway. Folks knew what was going on. There was a culture of acceptance of this kind of behavior toward women, young women and girls that came into the department.”
Irwindale City Manager John Davidson and Irwindale Police Chief Anthony Miranda could not be reached for comment Friday. The city is closed for business on Fridays.
Prosecutors initially charged Camerano with six felony counts, which would have resulted in a maximum sentence of five years in prison if he had been convicted as charged.
But he took a plea deal, and pleaded “no contest” to counts of using a minor for sex acts, oral copulation of a person under 16 and contact with a minor for sexual offense.
During the coarse of the investigation into Camerano, “There were other girls, as well, that divulged abuse,” he said.
“One other civil lawsuit involving a victim of Camerano is currently pending and has a trial date in early 2018.”
Criminal cases have not been filed in connection with the other incidents of girls reporting abuse by Camerano.
“I’m not sure what the barometer was for why the (district attorney’s office) decided to prosecute on some and not on others,” DeMarco said.
The abuse suffered by Jane Doe continues to have lasting effects on the young woman, DeMarco said.
“It has, and will, have effects on almost all aspects of her life going forward,” he said. “But she’s a resilient person who I am sure will accomplish great things in life.”
The Irwindale Police Department ended it’s Explorer Program following Camerano’s arrest.
DeMarco said the abuse of his client was not an isolated incident, but rather a symptom of a police department out of control.
“As of September of 2014 there were 14 internal investigation complaints regarding the police department with less than 30 officers,” according to the attorney.
Former Irwindale police sergeant David Fraijo received a nine-year prison sentence in 2015 after pleading “no contest” to charges stemming from the sexual assault of a woman during a traffic stop on Oct. 20, 2012, near Azusa Canyon Road and Arrow Highway.
Fraijo had pulled over a woman as she was delivering newspapers, prosecutors said. When she said she did not have a driver license, he directed her to a parking lot where he attacked her.
He ultimately pleaded “no contest” to charges of oral copulation under color of authority and sexual battery by restraint.
Three additional charges of kidnapping to commit another crime, forcible oral copulation and assault under color of authority were dismissed under the negotiated plea arrangement.
If convicted of the crimes he was initially charged with , Fraijo could have faced a life sentence in prison.
DeMarco also pointed out two other civil lawsuits brought against department lieutenants for alleged sexual harassment of female personnel, including cadets and Explorer Scouts.
And in an off-duty incident, a former Irwindale police sergeant was sentenced to a year in jail in 2013 for stealing his father’s life savings of $250,000 in 2012.
The Explorer Scouts, run by the national organization Learning for Life and affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, is a program in which young people are able to learn about law enforcement by observing police and working alongside them.
To help combat and prevent abuse of Explorer Scouts by authority figures, DeMarco said he would like to see existing voluntary policies laid out by Learning for Life intended to prevent such abuse be made mandatory.
Any time young people are allowed to be one-on-one with adults, without supervision, “You’re asking for problems,” he said.
“More needs to be done,” DeMarco said. “Looking to have careers in law enforcement is an admirable thing, and it should be fostered. But it shouldn’t come at a heightened risk of sexual abuse.”

PHOTO: Irwindale Police Officer Daniel Camerano at the scene where he and another officer saved a father, son and dog from and arson-set fire September 29, 2010 in Irwindale, Calif. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham/SVCITY)

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Whittier man accused of molesting boy at Arcadia gym

ARCADIA >> Police jailed a Whittier man Monday on suspicion of molesting a boy in the shower of an Arcadia gym, officials said.
The incident was reported just before 10:40 a.m. on March 20 at 24 Hour Fitness, 125 N. First Ave., according to Arcadia Police Department logs.
Police said the man first initiated a “sexually suggestive conversation” while in the spa with the boy.
“When the victim left to take a shower, the suspect followed him and groped him,” according to the log.
Police found and arrested Rodolfo Delgadill Cruz, 47, of Whittier on suspicion of child molestation, according to Arcadia police spokesman Tom LeVeque and Los Angeles County booking records.
Cruz pleaded not guilty to a charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years old on March 23 and is scheduled to return to the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing setting on April 20, court records show.
In the meantime, he was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Rodolfo D. Cruz, 47l, of Whittier, (Courtesy)

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Ex-San Gabriel Mission High School staffer who absconded with teenage student sentenced to prison in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA >> A former San Gabriel Mission High School athletic director received a sentence of at least two years in prison this week for absconding to Nevada with a 15-year-old then-student, officials said.
Juan Barajas, 37, received a sentence of 24 month to 72 months in state prison during his sentencing hearing on Tuesday in the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, according to Clark County Deputy District Attorney Alexander Chen. Barajas must serve a minimum of 24 months behind bars before becoming eligible for parole, he explained. The maximum amount of time he will spend behind bars in Nevada is six years.
Additionally, Barajas will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Chen said.
Police found Barajas with the teenage Pico Rivera girl and arrested him on Aug. 2 in Henderson, Nevada, officials said.
The man and girl had been missing since July 29, when they fled after the girl’s family learned of their inappropriate and illegal relationship. The girl had been a student at the school, a private Catholic high school operated by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
A Henderson police officer spotted Barajas and the girl hours after Los Angeles Police, who handled the investigation, asked the public for help in finding the missing teen and suspect.
He pleaded guilty in November to a single count of statutory sexual seduction,
Following his arrest, prosecutors initially charged Barajas with first-degree kidnapping, sexual assault of a minor under 16, lewdness with a minor under 16, statutory sexual seduction and committing a sex act in public, authorities said. If convicted as charged, could have faced between 20 and 50 years in state prison.

PHOTO of Juan Barajas (courtesy)

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Man arrested at Baldwin Park in-home day care center on suspicion of child molestation


BALDWIN PARK >> Police arrested a man at a Baldwin Park in-home day care center on suspicion of child molestation on Sunday, authorities said.
Few details were initially released as detectives continued gathering information and seeking possible additional victims, Baldwin Parkp police Sgt. David Leon said.
Detectives arrested the suspect Sunday morning at his home, which also operated as a day care center, in the 4200 block of Benham Avenue, the sergeant said. His identity was not released Sunday afternoon due to the active investigation.
It was not clear if the suspect worked or operated the in-home day care center, or merely lived there.
Investigators also served a search warrant at the home and recovered items of evidence, he said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Baldwin Park police Detective Carmen Chice at 626-960-1955, ext. 439.

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Pico Rivera man sentenced for online extortion of 21 girls nationwide

A judge sentenced a Pico Rivera man to nearly 40 years in state prison for extorting 21 underage girls in eight states into sending him nude pictures online, authorities said.
Cesar Mauricio Estrada-Davila, also known as Cesar Estrada, 20, pleaded “no contest” on Wednesday to 38 felony charges, including 21 counts of distributing or showing child pornography to a minor, 16 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of committing a lewd act on a child, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said in a written statement.
At his sentencing on Friday in the Antelope Valley branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Estrada received a prison term of 39 years and 8 months. He will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
“According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, Estrada reached out to young girls and befriended them on social media websites between January and April, 2015,” Santiago said. “The defendant told the victims he was a modeling agent who could make them famous online.
“Estrada then asked the victims to send him pictures of themselves in their underwear,” according to Santiago. “Once the defendant received the images, he would tell the girls he was going to send the photos to their friends and family if they did not send nude photos.”
Prosecutors filed charges in connection with 21 victims between the ages of 12 and 17 in the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Michigan, Washington, Colorado and Florida.
The investigation began after a 14-year-old Antelope Valley girl who reported the online extortion to her father, who in turn contacted police, sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Meyer said shortly after Estrada’a arrest.
Detectives searched Estrada’s home in the 8300 block of Rosemead Boulevard in Pico Rivera, where they found more than 26,000 pages of online and text conversations between Estrada and his victims, Meyer added. All of the victims were Latina girls, and many told investigators they had been living in fear of Estrada.
Estrada was initially charged with more than 150 crimes and could have received multiple life sentences if convicted at trial, prosecutors said.
The case was investigated by detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.

PHOTO of Cesar Mauricio Estrada-Davila courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Wrestling coach at El Monte high school denies allegations of sex with 3 underage students

EL MONTE >> A wrestling coach from an El Monte high school initially arrested on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with one underage female student denied 20 sex crime charges after the allegations expanded to include a total of three students in crimes dating back to 2015, authorities said.
Part-time Arroyo High School wrestling coach David Vaca, 21, of West Covina pleaded not guilty to seven counts of oral copulation of a person under 18, six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, six counts of penetration by a foreign object involving a minor and one count of sodomy on a person under 16 years old, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
El Monte police arrested Vaca Wednesday after learning of allegations of a sexual relationship between him and a 16-year-old female student between December of 2016 and January, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said. He initially accused of four felony sex crimes.
But as the investigation continued, prosecutors added two additional victims to the case, along with additional criminal charges.
“At separate times, the defendant allegedly had sexual relationships with three female students from the high school between June 1, 2015, and Jan. 28, 2017,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
Prosecutors requested bail be set at $965,000. He was initially held in lieu of $60,000 bail following his arrest Wednesday.
After entering his plea on Friday, Vaca was scheduled to return to Pomona Superior Court on Feb. 21 for a pre-preliminary hearing, court officials said.
Anyone with information can reach El Monte police at 626-580-2110. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of David Vaca, 21, of West Covina courtesy of the El Monte Police Department.

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Part-time wrestling coach at Arroyo High School in El Monte accused of sex with teenage girl

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EL MONTE >> Police jailed a part-time wrestling coach at Arroyo High School on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl, authorities said.
David Vaca Jr., 21, of West Covina is accused of four felonies related to child molestation, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement. And detectives were seeking any possible additional victims.
“Between December 2016 and January 2017, the suspect, David Vaca, engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female victim,” Luna said. “The crimes occurred at various locations in the cities of El Monte and South El Monte.”
Vaca works as a part-time wrestling coach at Arroyo High School in El Monte, Luna said. It was unclear late Wednesday whether the alleged victim was a student at the campus.
Vaca was being held in lieu of $60,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, county booking records show.
Anyone with information is asked to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2114, or via email at tips@empd.org. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of David Vaca Jr. courtesy of the El Monte Police Department

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San Gabriel man accused of long-term sexual abuse of child

SAN GABRIEL >> Police arrested a 37-year-old San Gabriel man on Tuesday after learning of allegations that he had sexually abused a young female relative over the past five years, officials said.
Jcelso Celestino Ombao was booked on suspicion of continuous sexual abuse of a child, as well as other sex-crime related felonies, according to San Gabriel police Lt. Brian Kott.
Police launched their investigation just before 2 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a report from staff at Temple City High School that a 15-year-old female student had been the victim sexual abuse, the lieutenant said.
“During the initial investigation, the victim divulged to officers that she had been sexually abused by an adult male family relative on a frequent and repeated basis within the family home for approximately the past give years,” Kott said in a written statement.
The alleged crimes took place at several home throughout the region, where the family had lived, as well as in San Gabriel in recent months.
Police arrested Ombao and obtained a warrant to search the family home, Jott said. “Evidence was collected that corroborated the victim’s account.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact San Gabriel police at 626-308-2828. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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El Monte man accused of trying to arrange sex with teen in South Whittier

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Deputies jailed an El Monte man this week after showed up in South Whittier to meet who he believed was a 15-year-old girl for sex, but was instead greeted by detectives, officials said.
Pedro Ivan Reyes-Peralta, 21, was booked on suspicion of arranging a meeting with a juvenile for a lewd act or purpose, and contacting a minor to commit a sex crime, following his arrest on Wednesday, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
(Reyes-Peralta) began communicating with an undercover detective on Tuesday, after he posted a Craigslist ad seeking sex,” Lt. Kent Wegener of the sheriff’s Human Trafficking Bureau said in a written statement. “The detective was posing as a 15 year-old girl and it was made clear that she was under age.”
After additional online communication, Reyes-Peralta arranged a meeting in South Whittier, Wegener said. He was arrested upon arrival.
“The suspect implicated himself during subsequent questioning,” the lieutenant added.
Sgt. Peter Hahn offered some words of caution for parents.
“Social media sites can be very hazardous places for minors. “Predators are actively seeing juveniles to exploit and victimize, since they believe they are hidden by the anonymous nature of the internet,” he said. “Parents are reminded to actively monitor the internet activity of their children, to prevent anyone from taking advantage of them.”
Reyes-Peralta was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.

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Commerce swim coach from Whittier denies child molestation charges

COACH

LOS ANGELES >> A Whittier man a denied charges related to the alleged repeated molestation of a 7-year-old girl who was a student at the Commerce aquatics center where he worked as a swim coach.
Steven Matthew Garcia pleaded not guilty to six felony county of committing a lewd act upon a child, Los Angeles County District attorney’s officials said. He was ordered back to Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 1 for a preliminary hearing setting.
Garcia is accused of fondling a 7-year-old student of the center on multiple occasions in recent months, while he worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Detectives conducting the investigation subsequently arrested Suspect Garcia, a resident of Whittier, on Friday, January 13, 2017, for multiple counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse of a minor,” Navarro-Suarez said in a written statement.
Prosecutors filed their case Wednesday. Garcia is being held in lieu of $600,000 bail.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau reached out to the public in search of additional information, or any possible additional victims of the suspect, the deputy added.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau can be reached at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Steven Matthew Garcia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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