PASADENA — A jury convicted a Pasadena yoga studio owner and instructor Wednesday of sexually assaulting three women under the guise of so-called “private healing sessions,” city officials announced Thursday.
A Pasadena Superior Court jury convicted Naader Shagagi, 56, of four counts of sexual battery by fraudulent representation, city officials said in a written statement.
Shagagi, the proprietor of the Yoga Kingdom Sanctuary, 553 S. Lake Ave., was ordered to return to court for sentencing Dec. 5, officials said. He faces up to four years behind bars, and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
“The City Attorney’s Office will recommend the maximum penalty,” Pasadena spokeswoman William Boyer said.
A total of six counts were initially filed, he said. The jury hung on two additional sexual battery charges against Naader.
The assaults took place during “so called private ‘healing’ sessions,” according to the city statement. “Evidence provided by Deputy City Prosecutor Joon Kim showed the victims were told that his intimate touching would help ‘heal’ the victims.”
“Other fraudulent representations that the defendant made to the victims included that he was ‘healer’ who had cured others of breast cancer and that he was a ‘messenger of the gods’ who could communicate with gods,” according to the statement. “The victims were convinced to participate in multiple private ‘healing’ sessions with Shagagi during which he repeatedly groped and touched them.”
The victims were all described as young women, Boyer said. The assaults took place in 2012, however a more specific time frame was not available Thursday.
We are grateful that the jury has sent a strong message that sex crimes will not be tolerated, Pasadena City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris said.
She also called upon any additional victims who have not yet made themselves known to come forward.
“If other victims step forward, our office will pursue these matters and seek justice for the victims,” she said.
Bagneris encouraged all sexual assault victims to report the crimes to police.
Officials sought the public’s help this week in finding potential additional victims of a physicians assistant who worked in El Monte and Anaheim and is accused of molesting a patient under the guise of a medical examination.
Rocael Gomez, 48, of La Mirada was arrested Oct. 8 and charged the same day with sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious victim and sexual battery by fraud, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said.
The alleged crime took place Jan. 4 at the Anaheim Market Clinic in Anaheim, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement issued Tuesday. At the time, he was also working at the Bansuan Medical Clinic in El Monte.
The victim, a 51-year-old woman, was being examined for back pain when Gomez allegedly molested her, prosecutors said.
“He is accused of sexually touching the victim under the guise that his actions served a legitimate professional purpose,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Officials said the victim reported the incident the same day it occurred.
Gomez, who was out of custody on $250,000 bail, was scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 12 in Orange County Superior Court.
If convicted as charged, Gomez faces up to nine years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender for life, officials said.
Anyone with information, or anyone who believed they may have been victimized by the defendant is asked to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Paul Carvo at 714-347-8794.
PHOTO of Rocael Gomez courtesy of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
A former California High School history teacher and junior varsity basketball coach received a 90-day jail sentence Thursday after admitting a sexual relationship with a former student, who was 17 at the time, officials said.
John Gilbert Orellano, 37, pleaded “no contest” to a felony charge of unlawful sexual intercourse in late July, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. The plea was made as part of a plea agreement in which an addition charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, as well as two counts of oral copulation with a minor, were dismissed.
As expected under the plea agreement, Orellano was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation at his sentencing in Norwalk Superior Court, court officials said. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Orellano, who has been free since posting $240,000 bail three days after his arrest on May 15, was immediately taken into custody to begin serving his sentence, according to county booking records.
Authorities began investigating Orellano in March after learning of allegations that he had sent sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old female student at California High School, in an unincorporated county area south of Whittier, according to Sgt. Nancy Drake of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau.
As the investigation progressed, detectives learned that Orellano and the student had sex in February, prosecutors said.
Orellano was immediately placed on leave once the allegations came to light, and he resigned from his position two days later, officials said. He has worked for the Whittier Union High School District for two years.
Sheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a Norwalk associate pastor accused of molesting as many as 20 female church members over the past eight years.
Jorge Juan Castro, 54, of Norwalk is charged with six felony counts in connection with the alleged sexual assaults of four women between ages 18 and 39 while he worked as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church, 11910 Alondra Boulevard, Sgt. Al Garcia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau said.
The alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2012, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
He was placed on leave in April, immediately after 20 women came forward to report to a church official that they had been sexually assaulted by Castro, Garcia said.
“Multiple victims reported the sexual abuse to a church official, who in turn, reported it to us,” the sergeant said.
But only four of the women were willing to speak with detectives as of Thursday, Garcia said.
Castro’s alleged victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, undocumented immigrants, the sergeant said. He was believed to have threatened them not to come forward.
“The suspect, after the assaults, threatened to have the them deported,” Garcia said. “He also threatened to subject them to public ridicule.”
Castro also worked as an associate pastor at an affiliated church, the Oasis Community Church in Moreno Valley, Garcia said. Authorities in Moreno Valley have been notified of the situation, however no victims from Riverside County have been identified, Garcia said.
After more than five months of investigation, deputies served an arrest warrant and took Castro without incident Sept. 13 at his Norwalk home, Garcia said.
Prosecutors charged him the same day with one count of rape, four counts of oral copulation by force and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales. The charges involve two victims, and the charged crimes occurred in January of 2004 and April of 2010.
“The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of multiple victims and states that the defendant committed the offenses by use of force, violence, duress, menace and fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury,” Davila-Morales said.
Castro started working for the Las Buenas Nuevas church in Norwalk shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, Garcia said.
Garcia said Castro took advantage of his position of authority to sexually assault the women. Some of the alleged attacks took place as he visited the women.
“Some crimes occurred at the church, some crimes occurred at the victims’ homes,” Garcia said.
Detective encouraged the 16 other alleged victims already identified, as well as any others who may not have come forward, to cooperate with investigators to bring Castro to justice.
“We’re here to tell the victims, and other potential victims, that law enforcement is here to help them. We will not report (them to) immigration. We’re not going to deport them.” Garcia said. “We want to help them deal with these heinous crimes and prevent him from doing it again.”
Garcia said Castro had no criminal history in the United States that investigators were aware of, however he did not know if he had a record in Argentina.
Castro was initially scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment the day of his arrest, however the hearing was continued to Oct. 16, Davila-Morales said.
According to county booking records, Castro was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
SOUTH WHITTIER — A former California High School history teacher and junior varsity basketball coach faces sentencing next month after pleading no contest to having sex with a then-17-year-old student, officials said.
“John Gilbert Orellano pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse on July 26,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said. The plea was entered at what was scheduled to be a hearing to determine a date for the 36-year-old Anaheim resident.
Orellano was initially charged with two counts of unlawful intercourse, as well as two counts of oral copulation with a minor.
He admitted the single count under a negotiated plea arrangement, Davila-Morales said.
He was ordered back to Norwalk Superior Court for sentencing Aug. 30, when he was expected to receive 90 days jail time, as well as five years felony probation, she said. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Prosecutors alleged Orellano had sex with the student in February, district attorney’s officials said.
The investigation into Orellano began with allegations that he had sent sexually explicit messages to the girl beginning in January, according to Sgt. Nancy Drake of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau.
But as the investigation went on, detectives determined that the case involved more than just electronic communication.
He was placed on administrative leave once Whittier Union High School District officials learned of the allegations on March 13, district officials said. Orellano, who had worked for the WUHSD for two years, resigned two days later.
“We worked very closely with the Sheriff’s Department to get resolution to this issue,” WUHSD Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson said. “It was our coordination with the department that initiated an investigation and (Orellano) was immediately removed from the classroom.”
WUHSD officials added that the incident was handled swiftly and appropriately by both district staff and law enforcement.
“In addition to the student’s trust he violated, I truly feel that this was a crime against the entire community,” Thorstenson said. “Now that the courtroom portion of this ordeal is over, it is my hope that he is punished accordingly.”
Orellano has remained free through the trial process after posting $240,000 bail three days after his May 15 arrest, according to county booking records. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A jury late last week acquitted a Whittier physician accused of inappropriately touching female patients during medical exams, authorities said.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said Steve Vouis, 67, was acquitted Friday on three counts of sexual battery by fraud.
Vouis was originally charged with six molestation counts involving five victims, however three of the charges were dismissed by the judge after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, deadlocking heavily toward acquittal, said his attorney, Jennifer Keller.
“He’s pleased and relieved, but his life has been really ruined by this,” Keller said.
“His practice that he spent the last 30 yeas building is destroyed,” the attorney said. ““He’ll never get his good name back. It’s not possible for it to have a truly happy ending, but we’re truly grateful that the right thing happened in court.”
Authorities said the alleged molestations occurred between 2007 and 2009 at his offices in Whittier and La Mirada. Three women testified at Vouis’ preliminary hearing that the doctor inappropriately touched them during breast or gynecological examinations.
Devoted colleagues and patients supported Vouis throughout the legal process, Keller said.
She said she did not know if he would again be able to open a practice, adding that, “There’s many patients who hope he will.”
Keller declined to comment on why she believed the five women made allegations against Vouis in the first place.
Evidence presented at trial showed two of them had already filed civil suits against the doctor, she said.
Another one of the accusers has been receiving benefits from the county due to her alleged status as a crime victim, Keller said. But the woman did not make her accusation until more than three years after the alleged incident, after other victims had accused Vouis of misconduct during examinations.
But despite being cleared in the eyes of the law, the doctor’s life is forever changed, Keller said.
“This has taken an enormous toll on him,” she said. “It’s a really sad situation, because he is an innocent man.”
Vouis’ trial began March 21 in Norwalk Superior Court.
Whittier police arrested Vouis March 17, 2010, after learning of allegations. He pleaded not guilty the at an arraignment the following day and was released on $125,000 bail pending trial.
COVINA — Officials are seeking a man who molested a woman outside her apartment complex late Wednesday.
The incident, which police are investigating as a sexual battery and false imprisonment case, occurred just after 10 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 1900 block of East Cienega Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said.
A 25-year-old woman exited the apartment complex to move her car and noticed a man standing nearby in the parking lot, the sergeant said.
“As she entered her vehicle, he ran toward her from behind and placed his arms around her and sexually battered her,” Marquez said. The man placed his hand over the woman’s mouth.
There was a struggle. The female managed to get away,” Marquez said.
The woman was “very scared,” however not injured, he said.
Police described the attacker as a Latino man in his early-20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 175 pounds. He wore a black hooded sweat shirt and dark-colored jeans.
No getaway car was seen, and the man was last seen heading east on Cienega Avenue, Marquez said.
Anyone with information can reach Covina police at 626-384-5595.
Accused pedophile Wade Bughman’s defense attorney today will tell a Pasadena Superior Court jury that his client didn’t molest students at a Duarte elementary school.
Prosectuors told a different story on Tuesday. Here’s what Brenda Gazzar reported.
Closing arguments began Tuesday for the trial of Wade Bughman of Monrovia, 43, who was charged with crimes of a sexual nature against five girls over a period of 15 years while he taught at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte.
The nine counts against Bughman include oral copulation of a person under 14, the crime of continual sexual abuse, forcible rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object and lewd acts upon a child.
With enlarged photos of the five young girls smiling behind her, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta told jurors the girls endured physical, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a pedophile that robbed them of their innocence.
Many of the girls were shy or submissive and some sat in the back of the classroom, she said. They were allegedly molested at lunch, during recess or after school in the “Think Together Program.”
Some of the girls in his class called him “rapist” and had code words to warn others they needed help, Archuleta said. She described Bughman as a “practiced and skilled manipulator” in satisfying his own lusts and desires.
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
LA HABRA — A La Habra man was behind bars Friday on suspicion of molesting a young girl earlier this week, officials said.
Jesus Navarro, 37, was arrested Wednesday and booked on suspicion of committing a lewd act with a child under 14 and indecent exposure, La Habra police spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said.
Officers were summoned to a residential neighborhood in the 400 block of South Bedford Street about 11 a.m. after the girl told her mother about the abuse, and the mother notified authorities, Knapp said.
Investigators interviewed and ultimately arrested Navarro in connection with the alleged crimes.
According to Orange County booking records, Navarro was being held without bail pending his scheduled arraignment Friday in Santa Ana Superior Court.