Sheriff’s department psychologist from La Canada Flintridge guilty of child molestation

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s Department psychologist from La Canada Flintridge could face life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of sexually abusing two young relatives over more than two years, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County jury convicted Michael Dane Ward, 45, of four counts of committing lewd acts on a child, two counts of forcible lewd acts on a child under 14, three counts of oral copulation of a child under 10 and one count of sodomy of a child under 10, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials announced in a written statement.
“Sentencing is set for Oct. 19, when Ward faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison,” according to the statement. The jury deliberated for three days before finding Ward guilty.
Should Ward ever be released from prison, he is expected to be required to register as a sex offender, district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Ward’s crimes took place between October of 2014 and March of 2016, prosecutors said at the time. His victims were both family members: a then-9-year-old boy and a then-10-year-old girl. Both victims testified against him at trial.
He was employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a psychologist at the time of his arrest. His specific duties within the department were not available, but sheriff’s officials said he was not a sworn deputy.
In a statement issued in the days following Ward’s arrest, the sheriff’s department described the allegations as “deeply troubling.”
“These allegations were not as a result of contacts he made within the scope of his work with the Sheriff’s Department,” according to the statement.
Ward was relieved of duty the same day he was arrested on May 5, 2016, sheriff’s officials added.
Ward posted $2 million bail 12 days after his May 5, 2016 arrest and had remained free pending the trial process, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Following the jury’s verdict on Friday, he was immediately remanded into custody without bail pending his sentencing in October in the Los Angeles branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Torch Middle School ex-janitor accused of molesting eight students, more victims sought

A former janitor at an Industry middle school faces charges of molesting eight female students, authorities announced Thursday.
Michael Anthony Barry worked at Torch Middle School in the Bassett Unified School District for 16 years, according to Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau. Investigators from the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau arrested him July 6.
Barry is accused of molesting eight children, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The alleged molestation charged in the complaint took place between August of 2016 and May of this year.
“The acts Mr. Barry is alleged to have committed involved the inappropriate touching of female students on school grounds,” according to Alexander.
And sheriff’s officials said they are seeking potential additional victims.
Torch Middle School administrators were approached on May 12 by multiple students who said they were touched inappropriately by Barry, Bassett Unified School District spokeswoman Nancy Yeang said. After interviewing the students, school leaders immediately put Barry on administrative leave, she said.
Administrators went to classrooms the same say to inform students Barry was put on leave, as well as to ask if any other students had experienced inappropriate conduct by the janitor, Yeang said. More students came forward with allegations.
Torch Middle School parents were later informed about the incident. Yeang said school officials were cooperating with the sheriff’s department during its investigation.
Barry was first arrested at the sheriff’s Industry station on June 13, but was released the next day without charges, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
Following his re-arrest on July 6, prosecutors filed nine criminal charges against him, according to court documents.
Barry pleaded not guilty the same day to five charges of felony child molestation of a victim under 14 years old, three misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child under 18 and one count of contributing to the delinquency of the minor, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. He’s scheduled to return to the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 10 for a preliminary hearing setting.
In the meantime, Barry is being held in lieu of $1.545 million bail, booking records show.
If convicted as charged, Barry could face up to 75 years to life in state prison.

— Brian Day and Josh Cain

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El Monte shuttle bus driver accused of molesting disabled woman

EL MONTE >> An El Monte man who works as a shuttle bus driver for a day care center for the disabled is accused of molesting a 30-year-old woman who he was transporting, police said Thursday.
Antelmo Medina, 58, is charged with sexual battery in connection with the alleged crime, which took place Tuesday, according to El Monte police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Medina drives a shuttle bus for “The Dream House,” a state-licensed dependent adult day care facility on Garvey Avenue, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement. His responsibilities included driving guests to and form their homes in a minivan.
“The alleged crime occurred while Medina transported the victim to her residence,” Luna said.
Medina also served as a physical fitness coach at the facility, where he has worked for the past eight months.
Prosecutors charged Medina on Wednesday with one misdemeanor count of sexual battery, district attorney’s office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
Medina was initially booked on suspicion of a felony-level crime and held in lieu of $1.125 million bail, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
After he was charged with a misdemeanor count of sexual battery, Medina’s bail was reduced by the court to $50,000, Santiago said. His arraignment was continued to Friday.
Anyone with information is urged ton contact the El Monte Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-580-2172. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING photo of Antelmo Medina courtesy of the El Monte Police Department

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Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of inappropriately touching students

SOUTH EL MONTE >> A 54-year-old Miramonte Elementary School teacher was arrested Wednesday for allegedly inappropriately touching girls at the school.
The alleged incidents occurred in a classroom and on school grounds, according to Sgt. Amy Hanson of the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau. She didn’t clarify the number of students molested but described them as between 8 and 11 years old.
She said Joseph Baldenebro was arrested on suspicion of lewd or lascivious acts involving children and molesting children.
“He’s been a teacher at the school for the past 21 years,” Lt. Todd Deeds of the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said. The grades he teaches are 4th and 5th grades.”
Baldenebro was booked at the sheriff’s Temple Station on Wednesday morning. Deputies did not release a city of residence for him.
Detectives did not release the number of suspected victims or the time frame of the alleged crimes.
Miramonte Elementary School at 10620 Schmidt Road in South El Monte is in the Mountain View School District.
District officials were notified by the principal at Miramonte Elementary about an alleged incident between a teacher and a student, according to a statement from Superintendent Lillian Maldonado French.
She said district officials immediately contacted police and Baldenebro was placed on administrative leave.
“The district takes any allegation of misconduct of any kind very seriously,” Maldonado French said.
“Yesterday the district was informed that Mr. Baldenebro was arrested under the suspicion of lewd acts. The district has and will continue to fully cooperate with the sheriff’s investigation, and out of respect for judiciary due process and privacy laws, we cannot discuss any confidential details about personnel or students within the district.”
She said additional school counselors have been made available to any students who might have been affected by Baldenebro’s removal. She said while they are shaken by the allegations, the district trusts in the legal process and will have no further comment until that process has been completed.
Booking records show Baldenebro is being held at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles on a bail of $404,000. He will be arraigned Friday at Pomona Superior Court.
Detectives believe there may be more possible victims of the longtime schoolteacher.
“We’re asking for the public help in identifying additional victims,” Deeds said. “If you have a child, or you went to Miramonte Elementary Shoool, and this gentleman was your teacher and you feel like something inappropriate happened, or criminal in nature, please contact the Special victims Bureau.
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.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

— Ruby Gonzales, Hayley E. Munguia, Brian Day

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Former Arroyo High School wrestling coach gets year in jail for sex with three underage students

POMONA >> A former part-time wrestling coach at Arroyo High School in El Monte who carried on sexual relationships with three underage students received a one-year jail term on Wednesday, authorities said.
David Vaca Jr., 21, of West Covina pleaded “no contest” earlier this month to one count of oral copulation of a person under 18 years old and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
During Vaca’s sentencing in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior court, Judge Salvatore Sirna suspended a 3-year, 8-month state prison term and ordered Vaca instead to serve 365 days in county jail, Ardalani said in a written statement. Vaca was additionally sentenced to five years of formal probation, ordered to attend 52 sexual compulsion classes, stay away from his victims for 10 years and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Vaca was accused of carrying on sexual relationships with three female students at separate times between June of 2015 and January of 2017, Ardalani said.
He entered his “no contest” pleas under a negotiated plea arrangement, which included the suspended prison term.
Following his arrest on Feb. 1, Vaca initially faced 20 felony charges: Seven counts of oral copulation of a person under 18, six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, six counts of penetration by a foreign object and one count of sodomy on a person under 16 years old.
Police first jailed Vaca after learning he had been involved in an inappropriate and illegal sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student of the school, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said at the time.
As the investigation unfolded, police learned of two additional students victimized by Vaca, Luna said.

PHOTO of David Vaca courtesy of the El Monte Police Deparment

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


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 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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