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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Diamond Bar man, volunteer at Diamond Ranch High School, accused of molesting student in 2006

DIAMOND BAR — A Diamond Bar man and volunteer in the music program at Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona is accused of molesting a 16-year-old student during the summer of 2006 while working at another high school in Fullerton, authorities said.
Albert Anthony Morales, 33, was arrested at his home Tuesday on suspicion of child molestation after a woman, now-22-year-old, came forward to report being abused by him while attending Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton in 2006, Sgt. Dan Scott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
The molestations took place “on an ongoing basis” over the course of the summer as Morales carried on an inappropriate, sexual relationship with the teenage student, Scott said.
“It was substantial sexual contact, and definitely rose to the level of a felony,” he said.
Formal charges were yet to be filed against Morales Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The alleged molestation was first reported to deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station Jan. 29, officials said.
Scott said the victim told investigators about her first sexual encounter with Morales after he invited her to his home and supplied her with alcohol.
He continued meeting the teenage student and engaging in sexual activity throughout the summer, Scott said. Molestations took place at Morales’ home and at other locations, but never at the school.
But the girl did not report the molestation, which at the time she viewed as a “relationship,” until late last week.
“Recently, she heard a presentation about sexual abuse, and a woman molested by a teacher,” Scott said. “That prompted her to come forward.”
After investigators looked into the allegations, members of the Sheriff’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit arrested Morales about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday at his home, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
It is not uncommon for allegations of child molestation to surface long after the incident, Scott said.
“It’s normal that children to not report right away,” he said. “They don’t realize they’re being used and taken advantage of by the perpetrator.”
Morales has been working with high school music programs and tutoring students, primarily in percussion, for the past 13 years, officials said.
Prior to working with students at Sunny Hills High School from 2004 to 2009, Morales was part of the music program at Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar from 1998 to 2000, according to Deputy Aura Sierra-Lidman said.
Morales began volunteering at Diamond Ranch High School in 2012, and was still assisting the band director and working with students at the time of his arrest, sheriff’s and Pomona Unified School District officials said.
He was not paid-employee of the district, district spokesman Ryan Hightower said.
Diamond Ranch High School Principal Suzanne Steinseifer-Ripley sent a letter to parents Tuesday regarding the arrest.
“Upon receipt of information, the school and district administration have fully cooperated with the authorities,” Steinseifer-Ripley wrote.
“While there is a presumption of innocence in matters of this nature, the district takes such matters with the utmost seriousness. The individual is not on the campus and will not return to campus pending the outcome of the investigation,” according to the letter.
A pre-employment background check and fingerprint analysis conducted by the PUSD turned up no previous criminal complaints against Morales, school officials added.
“This is a difficult time for our school and with your continued support we will maintain an educationally sound and supportive school environment for all students,” according to the principal’s letter. “Students may hear rumors or information from various sources. Parents are encouraged to discuss such information with their student(s). We remain committed to the safety and well-being of our students. School counselors and psychologists from the District will be available to meet with students as appropriate.”
While no other allegations had come to light Wednesday, Scott said investigators suspected the teenage girl was not Morales’ only victim.
“The victim in this case believed that there were other girls that were close to him,” Scott said.
“This type of behavior by an individual is very methodical and it’s often repeated,” the sergeant said. “We believe there’s a high likelihood that there’s other victims out there, and we urge them to come forward,”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273.
According to county booking records, Morales was being held in lieu of $350,000 bail at the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court.

BOOKING PHOTO of Albert Morales, 33, of Diamond Bar courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

San Gabriel Valley soccer coach suspected of sending inappropriate text messages to 11-year-old

Covina police arrested a Walnut-area soccer coach from West Covina Wednesday on suspicion of sending inappropriate, sexual text messages to an 11-year-old player on his team, authorities said.
Albert David Gutierrez, 45, was booked on suspicion of contacting a minor with intent to commit certain offenses, according to Covina police and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest stemmed from an allegation by a woman that Gutierrez, who coached her 11-year-old daughter’s American Youth Soccer Organization team, sent inappropriate text messages to the girl in December, Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said.
“They were sexual in nature,” the sergeant said.
The girl then told her mother, who confronted Gutierrez about the messages, police said.
“The suspect apologized to the victim’s mother for sending the messages and indicated he would stop all interaction with her,” the police statement said.
The mother then reported the situation to Covina police, who launched an investigation.
Police took a report and interviewed Gutierrez, who quickly obtained a lawyer, in December, Marquez said.
Through his attorney, Gutierrez agreed to turn himself in to police after the holidays, Marquez said. Detectives continued building their case in the meantime.
But when the holidays passed and Gutierrez did not turn himself in, police went looking for him, the sergeant said.
Detectives conducted a surveillance operation Wednesday at Gutierrez’s home in the 3200 block of Stella Avenue in West Covina and arrested him without incident, officials said.
The messages involved text only, and no pictures were sent, Marquez said.
He added that investigators were unaware of any previous allegations of sex-related crimes against Gutierrez.
The father of the alleged victim, whose name is being withheld to protect the girl’s identity, said his daughter played in the Walnut-based branch of the AYSO, known as Region 624.
The father added that he and his wife were shocked to learn of the allegations against a man whom they had previously trusted.
He also said he was glad his daughter reported the inappropriate situation immediately, before it become more serious.
Jill Meshekow, Director of the Safe Haven program at the American Youth Soccer Organization National Office, said Gutierrez would not be on the soccer field as the investigation continues.
“Mr. Gutierrez is parent of children playing in Region 624,” she said in a written statement. “While not acting in any official coaching capacity over the last few years, Mr. Gutierrez has stepped aside from helping in this Region in any capacity pending the outcome of this case.”
Safe Haven Program is the AYSO’s program directed and protecting both children and organization volunteers. “We are disheartened anytime there is an investigation of this nature and we will continue to support law enforcement as needed,” Meshekow said.
Gutierrez was released from jail Thursday morning after posting $500,000 bail, records show. He could not be reached for comment.
He was scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 13 in West Covina Superior Court.
“Because of Mr. Gutierrez’s involvement in coaching youth sports in the local area, there is a concern there may be additional victims who have not yet been identified,” according to the police statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Covina police Detective Felipe Munoz at 626-385-5615, or 626-384-5808.

PHOTO of Albert Gutierrez courtesy of the Covina Police Department

Former Duarte school teacher acquitted on child molestation charges

PASADENA – A jury Friday acquitted a former Duarte elementary school teacher of charges that he molested five students over more than a decade, officials said.

After more than a week of deliberation, the Pasadena Superior Court jury found Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia not guilty of all nine counts of child molestation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Bughman, a longtime teacher at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte, was arrested June 17, 2010, after five students and former students leveled allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1998.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled and overjoyed that the jury acquitted an innocent man, in our opinion,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Leonard Levine, who represented Bughman.

FULL STORY

Former Duarte school teacher acquitted of child molestation charges

PASADENA — A jury Friday acquitted a former Duarte elementary school teacher charged with molesting five students over more than a decade of all charges, officials said.
After more than a week of deliberation, the Pasadena Superior Court jury found Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia not guilty of all nine counts of child molestation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Bughman, a longtime teacher at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte, was arrested June 17, 2010, after five students and former students leveled allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1998.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta. Bughman was represented in court by Los Angeles-based attorney Leonard Levine.

Rosemead wrestling coach from Baldwin Park who was arrested in Mexico charged with child molestation

EL MONTE – A former assistant high school wrestling coach who ran a children’s wrestling program in Rosemead will be arraigned Friday in El Monte Superior Court on charges he sexually molested two boys, officials said.

Herbert Daniel Ortizmonroy, also known as Herbert Daniel Ortiz, was arrested at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and deported back to California this week, according to Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.

The 29-year-old Baldwin Park man is a U.S. citizen. His bail is $1 million.

Gibbons said Ortiz was charged last month with three counts of lewd acts upon a child and two of oral copulation of a person under the age of 16.

The criminal complaint alleged the crimes occurred between 2008 and 2010 and involved a 14-year-old victim. One of the molestation charges refers to a 2002 incident when the second victim was under 14, officials said.

Gibbons said the case came to light when one of the victims ran across Ortiz’s account on Facebook, then made a made a video incorporating some of the Facebook material.

The other victim’s mother saw the video on YouTube.

Ortiz was an assistant wrestling coach at Rosemead High School from 2007 to 2009, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. At least one of the accusers was on the wrestling team during that time.

Ortiz founded the Bad News Panthers Kids’ Wrestling Program in Rosemead in 2010, and has worked their as coach and program director since, according to sheriff’s investigators and the program’s website.

- Staff report