LOS ANGELES >> A federal grand jury indicted a 69-year-old Montrose man Wednesday on charges of traveling to Thailand to have sex with underage boys, officials said.
Paul Alan Shapiro is accused of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and sex trafficking of a minor, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement.
Wednesday’s court activity was a superseding indictment, replacing one originally filed in April of 2015, officials said.
“According to the indictment, in February 2010, Shapiro traveled from Los Angeles to Thailand, where Shapiro paid minors as young as 14 years old small amounts of local currency in order to engage in various sex acts with them,” according to the DOJ statement. “ Shapiro also allegedly took photographs of himself engaging in sexually explicit conduct with the boys.”
According the Thai newspaper, Pattaya Mail, Shapiro was arrested in Thailand in 2012 after being allegedly caught in the midst of a lewd act with a 13-year-old boy in a mall restroom.
He told investigator’s he’d purchased the services of the boy for 300 baht, or about $8.50, the Pattaya Mail reported at the time.
Shapiro received a royal pardon in Thailand last year so that he could be deported back to the United States to face charges, according to the newspaper.
“Child predators cannot flee the United States in the hope of having a safe haven for their criminal conduct,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “To protect the most vulnerable among us, my office will pursue Americans who seek to exploit children in other countries.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations officials are handling the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by the DOJ Criminal Divisions’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as part of Project Safe Childhood.
Shapiro remained in federal custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, according to inmate records.
Shapiro has been held without bail since he was taken into U.S. custody last July, U.S. DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
Information regarding his next court appearance was not available Wednesday.
“This indictment should serve as a warning to sexual predators who mistakenly believe they can escape justice by exploiting children overseas,” Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles said. “There is no tolerance for the sexual abuse of foreign children by our citizens, and HSI will work closely with our law enforcement counterparts throughout the world to ensure these criminals face justice.”
POMONA >> A 46-year-old La Puente man will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars after a judge sentenced him to 65 years to life in prison Thursday for the continuous sexual abuse of two underage family members over an eight-year period, officials said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Mark Christopher Acosta in March of 2015 of nine felony counts related to child molestation, including continuous sexual abuse of a child.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Martinez sentenced Acosta to 65 years to life in prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. He faced a maximum sentence of 120 years to life behind bars.
“Acosta sexually abused two female family members at separate times between 2001 and 2009,” according to the statement.
The first victim told an adult of the crimes in 2007, but the adult did not believe her, officials said.
The second victim came forward in 2013, prompting the first victim to also report her abuse to authorities, according to the district attorney’s office. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested Acosta on Feb. 21, 2014.
Judge Martinez also ordered Acosta to register as a sex offender for life.
EL MONTE >> Police are seeking an unidentified man who grabbed and groped a 10-year-old girl as she was walking to school Friday morning.
The girl was walking to school about 7:15 a.m. when she encountered the man at Tyler Avenue and Dodson Street, El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said in a written statement.
“The male suspect approached the girl who was alone and engaged her in conversation speaking only Spanish,” Cobian said. The girl walked away from him.
“The suspect came up behind the girl and hugged her while fondling her breast area over her clothing,” the sergeant said. “A school bus arrived scaring the suspect off.”
The attacker got into a silver, four-door compact car — possible a Toyota Corolla — and drove off, police said.
He was described as a Latino man, between 50 and 60 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, of medium build, with salt-and-pepper hair an facial pock marks, officials said. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sketch artist created a composite sketch of the molester, “with the brave victim’s help,” Cobian said.
Police are in contact with area schools, and have beefed up patrols around area campuses, Cobian said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2114, or email email@example.com. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WHITTIER >> Police Friday jailed a registered sex offender they say raped two teenage girls he met in the parking lot of a Whittier high school during two separate incidents that Wednesday and Thursday.
Richie Esquivel Corvera, 28, of South Whittier was booked on suspicion of two counts of rape by force or fear, as well as violating his probation, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Investigators arrested Corvera Friday night, hours after the two victims, ages 14 and 15, reported the crimes to school officials, who then notified Whittier police, Whittier police Officer John Scoggins said in a written statement.
Corvera met both victims in the parking lot of Sierra Vista High School, 9401 Painter Ave., police said.
The first attack took place about 9 a.m. Wednesday after Corvera approached a 15-year-old girl in the parking lot of the school, Scoggins said.
“Corvera persuaded the victim to get into his car and eventually drove her to a local motel where a sexual assault took place,” he said.
A nearly identical incident took place the following day, when Corvera persuaded a 14-year-old girl to get into his car before driving her to a motel and sexually assaulting her, officials said.
After learning of the alleged crimes Friday, “Detectives carried out an extensive investigation throughout the day, which resulted in the identification of Corvera as the suspect in this crime,” Scoggins said.
Police found him about 9 p.m. driving along Scott Avenue, north of Lambert Road, and arrested him during a traffic stop.
Following his arrest, detectives served a search warrant at Corvera’s home in the 10300 block of Parise Drive, Scoggins said. The home sits only a few hundred feet from the campus of California High School at 9800 Mills Ave.
Police were looking into whether Corvera was permitted to live so close to a school under the terms of his probation and sex registrant status, Scoggins said.
Corvera is already a registered sex offender due to a previous conviction for annoying or molesting a child, according to the state’s Megan’s Law database.
He was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Bellflower Superior Court.
Corvera drives a white, newer-model, four-door sedan, Scoggins said. But he added that investigators had ruled out the possibility he had access to other vehicles as well.
“Detectives are concerned that additional victims may be out there,” Scoggins said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WHITTIER >> A rookie Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy is accused of molesting a 12-year-old girl he met through an online video game over the course of a year, officials said Thursday.
Costa Mesa police, aided by Los Angeles county sheriff’s officials, arrested Jovanni Argueta, 26, of Los Angeles at a sheriff’s training facility in Whittier Wednesday afternoon, Costa Mesa police Lt. Greg Scott said.
Police first began investigating Argueta Oct. 22 after responding to a report of a “suspicious male” seen on the campus of Costa Mesa Middle School, police said in a written statement. The man had left the campus when officers arrived, but was quickly identified as Argueta, a deputy in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Detectives learned that Argueta and the victim, now-13 years old, had met a year earlier via an online fantasy computer game, officials said.
“Over the course of the year, when the female student was 12 years old, Argueta met with her on numerous occasions,” according to the police statement. “Argueta reportedly performed sexual acts with the girl. Argueta would meet the girl both on campus and away from school.”
Scott said Argueta has been a sworn Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy for less than a year.
Argueta was hired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in August of 2013, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. He was assigned to a men’s jail facility.
“The 26-year-old deputy was immediately relieved of duty, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” according to the LASD statement.
“We will be monitoring the criminal proceedings closely and will take appropriate and swift action when the outcome of the judicial process has concluded,” the statement continued.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department expects all of its members to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards at all times,” according to the statement. “Allegations of this magnitude are disturbing and disappointing. Any proven criminal, or other acts of misconduct that violate public trust will not be tolerated and immediate appropriate remedies will be taken by the Department as permitted by law.”
Argueta was booked on suspicion of child molestation and child annoyance.
Argueta posted $100,000 bail Thursday and was released from jail pending his initial court appearance, according to Orange County booking records.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Costa Mesa Police Department at 714-754-5281. Orange County Crime Stoppers can also be reached anonymously at 855-847-6227.
BOOKING PHOTO of Jovanni Argueta, 26, of Los Angeles courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
POMONA >> A convicted sex offender awaiting trial for the 1981 slaying of a 6-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a second murder charge stemming from the 1986 slaying of a second young boy, authorities said.
Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson, 53, who was living in Idaho when arrested by cold case investigators in March after DNA evidence linked him to the killing of 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo of Anaheim. Vargo’s body was discovered in Pomona the day after he disappeared while riding his bicycle in Anaheim on July 2, 1981.
After more than 30 years, Rasmuson was linked to the crime by DNA evidence and arrested, Pomona police Lt. Eddie Vasquez said at the time.
As the legal process moved forward in the murder case, DNA evidence linked Rasmuson to another slaying, that of 6-year-old Miguel Antero of Agoura Hills, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Prosecutors amended the felony complaint already filed against Rasmuson for Vargo’s killing to include Antero’s slaying as well, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
His body was found in a wash on April 8, 1986, the same day he went missing from outside his home, prosectors allege.
He pleaded not guilty to the new charges Wednesday in Pomona Superior Court, officials said. He was ordered back to court for another hearing in the case on Jan. 14.
Rasmuson now stands charged with two counts of murder, along the special circumstances that both killings were committed during the commission of lewd or lascivious acts on children, as well as the special circumstance of multiple murders.
Prosecutors are yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Rasmuson was previously convicted of sex crimes against children in California in the 1980s.
PHOTO: Kenneth Rasmuson, 53. (courtesy)
A Hacienda Heights high school chemistry teacher admitted molesting two of his students during a court hearing Wednesday, authorities said.
David Park of Chino Hills pleaded guilty in Pomona Superior Court to charges of committing lewd acts on a child and oral copulation of a person under 16, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. He admitted to molesting one former student in 2014, and another in 2011, Ardalani said. Both girls were 15 years old when the abuse started.
Park taught at Los Altos High School at the time of the crimes, and previous worked as a “walk-on” football coach at Ruben. S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, and taught at Western Christian School in Upland.
Park is expected to receive three years in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Dec. 3, officials said. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Under a negotiated plea deal, four additional charges related to child-molestation are to be dismissed at the sentencing hearing, Ardalani said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies first arrested Park in February after Hacienda La Puente Unified School District officials first learned of a sexual relationship between Park and a 15-year-old student, investigators said.
As the investigation into the 2014 allegations was ongoing, “A former student came forward and revealed Park had sexually abused her in 2011,” Ardalani said.
ALHAMBRA >> A former South Pasadena High School track coach will avoid time behind bars after pleading no contest to charges of molesting a 16-year-old student, officials said Friday.
Pierre Jonas Hernandez, 33, pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanor charges of child molestation and sexual battery during his trial last week, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Alhambra Superior Court Judge Jon Takasugi sentenced Hernandez Friday to 180 days in jail, to be served by electronic monitoring, five years of summary probation and 30 days of community service, Ardalani said.
Additionally, Hernandez was ordered to register as a sex offender for life, attend 52 seeks of sexual compulsion classes and not contact any of his alleged victim for 10 years.
“According to testimony at trial, a 16-year-old female student came forward in April 2014 and said Hernandez gave her a massage behind a locked door,” Ardalani said. “The massage included inappropriately touching the victim by reaching under her shorts and touching the victim’s buttocks.”
At least one more students made similar allegations once the investigation began, South Pasadena police Detective Mike Palmieri said, but additional charges were not filed as the statue of limitations had expired.
Hernandez had served as track coach at South Pasadena High School for about seven years, police added.
WHITTIER >> A Whittier man faces 24 years in state prison after pleading “no contest” Wednesday to charges related to this ongoing molestation of a 5-year-old family member, authorities said.
Jonathan Javier Ruvalcaba, 29, pleaded no contest to charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and committing forcible lewd acts on a child during an appearance in Norwalk Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
He is scheduled to return to court Oct. 5 for sentencing, when he’s expected to be sentenced to 24 years in state prison, Ardalani said in a written statement.
Ruvalcaba began molesting the young girl in 2010 and continued the abuse for three years, officials said. Investigators learned of the abuse in October of 2013, and arrested Ruvalcaba in May of 2013 following seven months of investigation, Ardalani said.
In addition to his prison term, Ruvalcaba will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
PHOTO of Jonathan Ruvalcaba courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
WHITTIER >> Prosecutors Wednesday declined to file criminal charges against a Whittier man arrested last week on suspicion of child molestation, citing insufficient evidence, authorities said.
Whittier police arrested Joseph Anthony Teixeira, 68, Friday on suspicion of molesting a girl over the course of three years, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
But prosecutors Wednesday reviewed the case and declined to file charges due to “insufficient evidence,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Police had sought two charges of committing lewd acts on a child.
In addition to the alleged sex crimes, police also booked Teixeira on suspicion of drug possession after discovering about 150 pounds of marijuana in his home while serving a search warrant, according to the police statement. But no drug-related charges were filed, Risling said.