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.