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

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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@empd.org. 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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Commerce swimming coach from Whittier charged with molesting 7-year-old girl

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COMMERCE >> Prosecutors filed six felony charges on Wednesday against a swimming coach from Whittier accused of repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl at the Commerce aquatic center where he worked, officials said.
Steven Matthew Garcia, 27, was charged with six counts of committing a lewd act upon a child in Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
He entered no plea, as his arraignment hearing was postponed until Thursday, he said.
“Garcia is accused of fondling a 7-year-old girl in an employee lounge at an aquatic center on several occasions,” Risling said in a written statement. “After each incident, he allegedly threatened the victim, ordering her not to tell anyone.”
The alleged crimes took place between October and this month, officials said
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau, who handled the investigation, arrested Garcia on Friday afternoon, according to county booking records. He was being held in lieu of $750,000 bail.
If convicted as charged, Garcia faces up to 14 years in state prison.

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Man sought in connection with molestation of young boy at Puente Hills Mall

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INDUSTRY >> Deputies are seeking a man for questioning in connection with the molestation of a 9-year-old boy at the Puente Hills Mall in Industry earlier this month, officials said.
The crime took place about 6:45 p.m. on July 8 at the mall, 1600 S. Azusa Ave., Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“A 9-year-old old boy reported that he was inappropriately touched by a male adult while he was inside the Puente Hills Mall,” Schrader said. “The assault was reported to mall security shortly after the incident occurred.”
Investigators have since obtained a surveillance camera image of a person of interest, and asked the public’s help in tracking him down.
He’s described as a Latino man, about 35 to 40 years old, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall. He was balding with black-and-gray hair, clean-shaven and wore a blue shirt.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Santa Fe Springs man sentenced for sexually abusing child at mother’s daycare business

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A judge sentences a 34-year-old Santa Fe Springs man to 10 years in prison Wednesday for sexually molesting a 5-year-old girl at his mother’s home-based child care business more than a decade ago, authorities said.
Robert Andres Martinez pleaded “no contest” in May to two felony charges: committing forcible lewd acts on a child and committing lewd acts on a child, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Prosecutors charged Martinez with child sex crimes in January following an investigation by the Whittier Police Department.
In addition to his prison term, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Porras also ordered Martinez to register as a sex offender for life during the sentencing in the Norwalk courthouse, Ardalani said.
Martinez’s mother ran a child care center out of her Santa Fe Springs at the time of the molestations in 2005, officials said.
“In the afternoons, the children would have naptime in the living room,” Ardalani said. “It was during naptime that Martinez lured one of the children, a 5-year-old girl, into his bedroom and sexually abused her.”
The victim did not report the abuse at the time, officials said.
“The victim, who is now in high school, recently revealed to her mother about the molestation, which prompted the parent to call authorities and report the sexual abuse,” Ardalani said.

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Glendora soldier recalled from Iraq, charged with child molestation and rape

GLENDORA >> A U.S. Army solder from Glendora man has been returned to L.A. County from an Iraq deployment to face charges of child molestation and forcible rape, authorities said Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged Fadi Haddad, 39, on April 20 with three counts of committing lewd acts on a child and two counts of forcible rape of an adult, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
He is an army reservist with the rank of specialist who works in military intelligence and translation, Glendora police Detective Chris Farino said.
After prosecutors filed charges against Haddad in April, the Army arranged for him to be returned to his deploying base in Fort Hood, Texas, in mid-May to await legal proceedings, officials said.
Haddad waives his right to fight extradition and was returned to Los Angeles County to be booked into jail early May 28, Farino said.
The alleged child molestations involved an underage girl who Haddad had access to, and occurred between October of 2009 and October of 2010, and also between October of 2013 and October of 2014, Ardalani said.
The investigation began after, “a child revealed that he’d been sexually abusing her,” she said.
The child victim was 13 years old when the abuse began, Farino said.
During the course of investigation the alleged crimes against the child, detectives also encountered a woman who alleged that Haddad had raped her twice, in August of 2014 and in July of 2015, Ardalani said.
Haddad was also previously acquainted with the alleged adult victim, Farino said.
Haddad is scheduled to appear for arraignment June 17 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, records show.
In the meantime, he was being held in lieu of $5 million bail.
Anyone with information can reach Glendora police at 626-914-9250. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man sought after groping 10-year-old girl on way to school in El Monte

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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 tips@empd.org. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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