Bassett man accused of molesting children, trading in child pornography

MONTES

Detectives arrested a Bassett man Thursday on suspicion of molesting at least three young girls as well as distributing and possessing child pornography.
And detectives fear there may be additional victims of 43-year-old Manuel C. Montes not yet known to authorities, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
Investigators arrested Montes Thursday morning at a Norwalk home after linking him to the possession and distribution of images of child pornography, then discovering what Hahn described as a “trophy room” filled with young girl’s items such as clothes, toys and children’s books.
The illicit pornographic images also indicated that Montes personally committed sex crimes against at least three girls appearing to be between the ages of 10 and 13, the sergeant said.
“We are concerned that if has done this in the past to these three, there may be others that he’s had access to over the years,” Hahn said. He encouraged anyone whose been a victim of a sex crime, whether at the hands of Montes or another, to come forward.
Detectives had identified and interviewed one of the alleged victims, a relative of the suspect, Hahn said. Officials believed they had located the second in Colorado and sent a deputy to meet with her. The third victim seen in the images seized from Montes was not identified.
Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau detectives first learned of Montes in January, when they received a tip via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating a person by the name of Manuel Montes had uploaded child pornography to the Internet on two separate occasions from a home in the 9900 block of Belmont Street in Bellflower, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Detectives learned that there was a man by that name connected to the home, and that he had previously been arrested, but never convicted, of distributing child pornography about a decade ago, Hahn said. When detectives visited the Bellflower home Tuesday, they learned the house was that of Montes’ girlfriend, and Montes had moved to Bassett a month or two prior.
Detectives immediately went to Montes’ new home, a separate living area housed at a commercial property in the 1800 block of Workman Mill Road in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, according to investigators.
“It was evident that somebody had left just prior to our arrival,” Hahn said.
Inside the home, where Montes’ was believed to live alone, detectives noticed black threads strewn like trip wires, presumably to allow Montes to know if anyone had been in his residence, Hahn said.
“We found hundreds of images of child pornography on both hard drives and on compact disks,” Hahn said. “We confirmed that Mr. Montes did, in fact, live at that location.”
And detectives made another disturbing discovery at Montes’ home; one which the seasoned investigators said they had not seen before.
“We discovered a back room in the location that was filled with child’s paraphernalia: books, diaries, makeup — like a trophy or a treasure room.
The “trophy room” also included collages made from pictures of young girls in various states of undress, Hahn said, as well as diaries in which, “He would write out his fantasies of what he wanted to do to little girls.”
“This is one of the more bizarre cases because of the trophy room,” he said.
Detectives returned to Montes’ Workman Mill Road home Wednesday, again finding that they had apparently just missed him, officials said. They also notes a security camera monitoring the front of the home that had not been there Tuesday.
Though the suspect remained at large Wednesday, deputies found his brother, 46-year-old Lorenzo Montes of Claremont, in the neighborhood and arrested him on suspicion of aiding and abetting Manuel Montes.
The search for Manuel Montes continued, and deputies from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau found him Thursday morning at a home in the 13000 block of Graystone Avenue in Norwalk, officials said.
“He attempted to flee out the back window,” Hahn said. But he was quickly captured by deputies.
It was not immediately clear what the relationship was between Manuel Montes and the Norwalk home where he was arrested.
Also jailed Thursday on suspicion of aiding and abetting Manuel Montes was his girlfriend, 41-year-old Stacey Marie Oropeza of Bellflower, Hahn said.
Manuel Montes was employed as a grounds keeper in Bassett, Hahn said.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records indicate Manuel Montes was convicted in July, 2004, of domestic violence. He was convicted in July, 2003, of possession of dangerous weapons, and in March of 1992, he was convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent.
According to county booking records, Manuel Montes was being held in lieu of $507,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, while his brother was being held in lieu of $45,000 bail and Oropeza was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.
The Montes brothers were both scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Downey Superior Court, while Oropeza was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Bellflower Superior Court.
Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273.

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Azusa man accused of child molestation captured in Lake Arrowhead

An Azusa man already on probation under AB 109 guidelines was behind bars without bail Wednesday on suspicion of child molestation after investigators tracked him to a San Bernardino County cabin, authorities said.
Robert Santos Arvizu, 41,was booked on suspicion of committing lewd acts on a child about 5 p.m. Tuesday after a multi-agency task force found him hiding out in a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest stemmed from an alleged molestation that took place Sunday, Azusa police Lt. Steve Hunt said.
Few details were released about the alleged incident as police continued investigating and prepared to present their findings to prosecutors, the lieutenant said.
“(Arvizu) had allegedly committed the crime of lewd acts with a child,” police said in a written statement. The gender of the child, described as under 14 years old, was not released Thursday.
The child was not a stranger to the suspect, however investigators declined to discuss their relationship.
Police quickly realized the man they were seeking was on county Post-Release Community Supervision under AB 109 guidelines due to a previous burglary conviction, officials said. Azusa investigators then enlisted the help of the San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force, a multi-agency group of law enforcement officers charged with keeping tabs on felons released from custody under AB 109 guidelines.
Officials quickly determined Arvizu had provided a false address to his probation officer, officials said.
“They also learned Arvizu quit his job on Monday,” according to the police statement. “He told his employers he had to leave the state.”
Details regarding Arvizu’s job was not available Wednesday, however Hunt said it did not involve children.
Fearing Arvizu was on the run, the task force began hunting for him and located him in Lake Arrowhead within eight hours of joining the search, police said. Officers arrested him without a struggle and turned him over to the Azusa Police Department.
According to county booking records, Arvizu was being held without bail pending his initial appearance in West Covina Superior Court.

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Montebello police seek 3 fugitives in unrelated child molestation cases

SUSPECTS

MONTEBELLO — Montebello police sought the public’s help Wednesday in tracking down three longtime fugitives accused of child molestation in three unrelated cases.
All three men, former Montebello residents, have been identified as suspect in the molestations of young girls, Montebello police Detective Sgt. Julio Calleros said.
“Cases have been filed, and warrants have been obtained,” he said. “They know they’re being sought.”
But the suspects remain at-large, even after detectives have scoured the state in search of them, the sergeant said. “We’ve reached a dead end.”
So investigators Wednesday released their images to the public in hopes of generating tips.
Police have been seeking Paul Angel Candelas, 24, since 2011, when he allegedly molested the disabled, 6-year-old daughter of an acquaintance, Calleros said.
Candelas comes from a wealthy family and may be hiding out in the Inland Empire, the sergeant said.
Jose Luis Pineda, 44, is accused of molesting a 7-year-old female relative from 2011 to 2012, when the alleged crimes were discovered, Calleros said.
“(Pineda) possibly drives a gray Nissan Altima with tinted windows,” police said in a written statement. Before his disappeared, he was believed to work nights at the El Rodeo Night Club in Pico Rivera.
Hector Huerta, 30, has been sought by police since last year in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of a now-13-year-old family member between 2007 and 2013, Calleros said.
He is known to work as a mechanic for big rigs, and also as a big rig tire repair man, according to the police statement.
He has ties to Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and Texas, police said.
Both
Pineda and Huerta are both believed to have ties to Mexico, police added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Montebello Police Department at 323-887-1313. Anyone who spots one of the fugitives is encouraged to contact local police by calling 9-1-1.

PHOTOS of fugitives Paul Candelas, Jose Pineda and Hector Huerta courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.

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Former fire captain from Whittier pleads ‘no contest’ to child molestation

POMONA — A retired fire captain from Whittier pleaded “no contest” Wednesday to charges of molesting a young female relative over the course of two years a decade ago.
Edward John Cervantes, 62, entered the plea at his initial court appearance in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
He was charged with one count of lewd acts upon a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
Cervantes pleaded “no contest” to both charges, Ardalani said. There was no plea agreement with the prosecution involved.
The molestations took place between 2003 and 2005, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. The victim, a relative of Cervantes, was in the 5th and 6th grades at the time.
Cervantes faces up to 24 years in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Jan. 27, she said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators arrested Cervantes Sept. 19, officials said, however he has remained free pending his court appearance after posting $250,000 bail.

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Good Samaritan chases down suspect in child molestation at Pomona park

POMONA >> Pomona police arrested a man Tuesday for allegedly touching a child in a sexual manner in a bathroom at a local park.

Kenneth Royce, 20, of Pomona was taken into custody after a bystander chased him down and held him for police about a block away from the park at 865 E. Grand Avenue, police said in a written statement.

Police say the 6-year-old boy was using the bathroom at Washington Park around 5:30 p.m. when Royce is suspected to have touched him…

Full story

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Former Pasadena youth boot camp operator pleads no contest in molestation, kidnapping cases

PASADENA — A former youth boot camp operator could face more than 12 years in prison after admitting to child molestation, kidnapping and extortion charges earlier this month, officials said.
Kelvin Bernard McFarland, 43, of Monrovia entered no contest pleas to all eight remaining charges against him, as well as one misdemeanor, at a July 1 appearance in Pasadena Superior court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jean Guccione said. One charge of forcible rape was dismissed by the court.
The pleas were “open,” meaning that McFarland had arranged no plea deal with regard to his sentence, Guccione said.
He could face more than 12 years in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Jan. 21, district attorney’s officials said.
The charges stemmed from two separate cases.
In one of the cases, he was accused of molesting two then-14-year-old girls in 2004. It was not clear how McFarland met the victims.
In the other case, McFarland was accused of kidnapping and handcuffing a 14-year-old girl who was truant from school in 2011, then refusing to release her until her family paid him $100. He also brandished a badge resembling a police badge when approaching the girl, prosecutors said.
Following his arrest in March of 2012, McFarland pleaded not guilty to charges of lewd acts upon a child, unlawful sexual intercourse , oral copulation of a person under 16 years old, sexual penetration by a foreign object, forcible rape, kidnapping, child abuse, false imprisonment, extortion and unlawful use of a a badge.
The forcible rape charge was dismissed by Pasadena Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover on a defense motion contending insufficient evidence, Guccione said. McFarland pleaded “no contest” to all remaining charges.
McFarland formerly ran the Family First Growth Camp in Pasadena. He became the subject of controversy in October of 2011 after two videos depicting the treatment of troubled teen campers at a differed Pasadena-area boot camp program surfaces. McFarland and other instructors pictured children being urged to drink water until they vomited and a boy with a tire around his neck being berated by the instructors.
McFarland denied that he was in either video.

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Former Rosemead wrestling coach from Baldwin Park sentenced for child molestations

Herbert Ortizmonroy

EL MONTE — A judge sentenced a former Rosemead wrestling coach from Baldwin Park to prison Tuesday for child molestation, officials said.
Herbert Daniel Ortizmonroy, 30, who is also known as Herbert Daniel Ortiz, received a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison from El Monte Superior Court Judge Steven Sanora, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jean Guccione said.
In a plea agreement, he pleaded no contest in May to one count of committing lewd acts on a child and one count of oral copulation on a person under 16 years old, Guccione said.
Ortizmonroy was initially charged with three counts of lewd acts on a child and two counts of oral copulation on a person under 16.
The bulk of the alleged molestations too place between 2008 and 2010, though one of the charges stemmed from an alleged incident in 2002, according to district attorney’s officials.
He worked as an assistant wrestling coach at Rosemead High School from 2007 to 2009, investigators said. The following year, he founded and coached in the Bad News Panthers Wrestling Program in Rosemead until he was identified as a child sex abuse suspect in September of 2012.
Authorities began looking into Ortizmonroy after a male alleged victim or his posted a video on YouTube accusing the coach of molestation in 2002, investigators said.
A woman saw the video and recognized Ortizmonroy as her 14-year-old son’s former assistant wrestling coach at Rosemead High School, authorities said. The mother asked her son if he had ever been abused by Ortizmonroy, and the boy told her that he had. The mother notified authorities, launching an investigation.
Ortizmonroy was arrested at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico in November of 2012, district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said at the time. An American citizen, Ortizmonroy was promptly deported back to the California to face charges.

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Mountain View High School music teacher denies 17 child molestation charges

A teacher from an El Monte high school accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old student pleaded not guilty Friday to 17 felony charges, officials said.
Mountain View High School music teacher Abel Heriberto Acosta, 40, was charged Friday with five counts of unlawful sex with a minor, five counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, four counts of lewd acts on a minor and three counts of oral copulation of a minor, according to a felony complaint filed in Pomona Superior Court.
He entered a not guilty plea and was ordered to return to court May 23 for a preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said
The alleged molestation took place between December of 2012 and April of 2013, according to the complaint.
El Monte police arrested Acosta Tuesday after several days of investigation, police and El Monte Union High School District officials said. The allegations against the teacher first came to light four days earlier.
Acosta has been an employee of the school district for nearly two years, officials said.

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Teacher at Mountain View High in El Monte accused of sexual relationship with student

EL MONTE — A Mountain View High School music teacher is behind bars Thursday on suspicion of carrying on an inappropriate relationship with a freshman student, authorities said.
Abel Acosta, 40, was arrested Tuesday, according to El Monte police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
El Monte Unified High School District and police launched an investigation on May 3, when district officials, “received information that a Mountain View High School teacher was having an illicit relationship with a student,” EMUHSD officials said in a written statement.
“Late Tuesday night, the El Monte Police Department arrested (Acosta) for having a sexual relationship with a minor,” El Monte police Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
“The minor is safe and cooperating with authorities,” the lieutenant added. “No other victims have been identified at this time.”
The investigation was ongoing, Burlingham said.
Acosta, who has been employed by the EMUHSD for nearly two years, had no previous allegations against him, according to the school district’s statement.
“This was the first complaint that has been received regarding this particular teacher,” the statement said. “This employee had cleared all preliminary screening and requirements as a school employee, including clearance of fingerprints through the Live Scan system.”
The school and school district have been cooperating and collaborating with police, and will continue to do so, district officials added.
“Parents of students attending the school have been notified of the situation and counseling is available for all students if needed,” according to the EMUHSD statement.
EMUHSD Superintendent Nick Salerno said the teacher’s status with the district was yet to be determined as he remained behind bars, but he would not be back in a classroom while the investigation continues.
Though Acosta continued teaching Monday and Tuesday as police investigated and gathered evidence, “There was very close monitoring by both the police department and school officials,” Salerno said.
Mountain View High School parents were notified Thursday of the situation via automated phone calls, he said.
Salerno said the allegation was handled swiftly and appropriately.
“I appreciate the efforts of the El Monte Police Department and our staff,” he said. “I commend the police in their quick work.”
According to county booking records, Acosta was being held in lieu of $1.3 million bail pending his initial court appearance. The date of Acosta’s first court appearance was not available Thursday.
Anyone with information was asked to contact El Monte police Detective Jake Fisher at 626-258-8696.

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El Monte man guilty of child sex abuse

EL MONTE — A 33-year-old El Monte man was convicted Wednesday of sexually abusing two children, officials said.
According to Deputy District Attorney Deborah Scott, jurors deliberated less than a day before finding Roberto Edgar Torres guilty of two counts each of unlawful sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years or younger, and unlawful oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 10 years or younger.
He was also convicted of one count each of sending harmful matter with the intent to seduce a minor and lewd act with a child under 14 years. Jurors found true a special allegation of multiple victims.
Torres faces a maximum sentence of 80 years to life at his May 28 sentencing.
Authorities said Torres abused a boy and a girl between January 1997 and March 2009. The girl was then 7 and the boy was 7 or 8.
Torres fled during the investigation and was caught in Tamaulipas, Mexico. He was sent back to the U.S. Pomona police investigated the case.

- Ruby Gonzales

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