A former teacher who contracted with several Southern California schools to teach music to children has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for producing child pornography, officials reported.
John Edward Zeretzke, 62, of Ventura, was sentenced Thursday to 183 months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.
Zeretzke pleaded guilty in August 2020 to one count of production of child pornography after having previously pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court to six state counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts with minors under the age of 14.
In July 2020 he was sentenced to 18 years in state prison, which will run concurrently with his federal prison sentence, officials said.
Prosecutors said between December 2016 and February 2017, Zeretzke communicated online with a girl who lived out of state and coerced her into producing child pornography.
"[Zeretzke] preyed on young, impoverished girls in Third World countries and used his Flutes Around the World program as a means to contact and sometimes take advantage of those girls,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Through that program, state prosecutors said Zeretzke gave semen-tainted flutes to children who were interested in learning the instrument.
The case against Zeretzke was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
A California surfing school owner was charged Wednesday with killing his two young children with a spear gun in Mexico because he believed they would become monsters, authorities said.
Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara is facing a federal charge of the foreign murder of U.S. nationals, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.
It wasn't immediately clear whether he had an attorney to speak for him.
Coleman confessed to the FBI during an interview that he took his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter to Rosarito, Mexico, where shot a “spear fishing gun" into their chests, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent with the criminal complaint.
Coleman said that “he believed his children were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them,” according to the court document.
A farmworker found the children's bodies on Monday at a ranch near Rosarito in Baja California, authorities there have said.
Coleman and the children had checked into a Rosarito hotel on Saturday, but video footage showed them leaving before dawn on Monday, Mexican authorities said.
The man returned alone later that morning and then left the hotel for good, authorities said.
Coleman's wife reported to Santa Barbara police on Saturday that her husband had left with the children in the family's van, she didn't know where they were going, and he hadn't answered her text messages.
Coleman's wife said she didn't believe the children were in any danger, that she hadn't had any problems with Coleman, and “they did not have any sort of argument” before he left, according to the court affidavit.
An iPhone-finding application placed Coleman's phone in Rosarito on Sunday, and on Monday it was traced to an area of Mexico near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego, according to the affidavit.
Coleman was detained at the border checkpoint, where during an interview with an FBI agent “he explained that he was enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife, A.C., possessed serpent DNA and had passed it on to his children," according to the affidavit.
Coleman is the founder of the Lovewater surfing school in Santa Barbara.
The U.S. Justice Department is “carefully reviewing” allegations by organizations of Black and Latino members of the Los Angeles Fire Department that the agency has engaged in civil rights violations and other wrongdoing in its treatment of employees.
Notice that the civil rights section of the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles is examining the allegations came as a group representing female firefighters joined the calls by the Black and Latino organizations for a federal investigation.
The demand for an inquiry followed a Times report last week on accusations that a high-ranking white official in the LAFD received preferential treatment after he was reported to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty at the department’s headquarters.
In a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Fire Commission, Battalion Chief Kristine Larson, president of Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, demanded accountability.
A Southern California man has been arrested in connection with the U.S. Capitol riot after prosecutors said he texted a selfie of himself in the Jan. 6 mob to members of his church group, a newspaper reported.
A member of Glenn Allen Brooks’ prayer group tipped federal authorities on Jan. 30. after he shared a photo he took of himself standing in a the crowd that had forced its way into the Capitol, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent.
Brooks, of Huntington Beach, is seen with a white beard and red jacket in the photo, and is wearing a beanie decorated with an American flag and “TRUMP," the Orange County Register reported Sunday.
He entered the Senate side of the Capitol by climbing through a broken window, the FBI statement said.
Brooks was accused of unlawful entry and disorderly conduct on restricted grounds in a criminal complaint filed July 27. He was arrested two days later, and made his first court appearance Thursday.
Neither Brooks nor the federal public defender assigned to represent him could immediately be reached for comment.
A passenger who allegedly tried to push his way into the cockpit of a recent flight taxiing to the runway at Los Angeles International Airport is facing a federal charge, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Tuesday.
The incident took place on United Airlines Flight 5365, operated by SkyWest Airlines, which was supposed to be headed from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City around 7:10 p.m. on Friday. In an FBI affidavit, officials said shortly after the plane pushed back from the gate, Luis Antonio Victoria Dominguez “sprinted” to the front of the aircraft past a seated flight attendant and “began banging on the cockpit door and manipulating the locked doorknob."
Victoria Dominguez, 33, of La Paz, Mexico, was charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants, officials reported.
After failing to breach the cockpit, the affidavit states Victoria Dominguez pushed past a flight attendant and went to the emergency exit on the right side of the plane.
Despite attempts from another passenger to restrain him, officials said Victoria Dominguez managed to jump from the plane missing the emergency slide that had deployed.
Victoria Dominguez later underwent surgery for a broken leg he suffered when he landed on the tarmac and crawled away from the plane, officials said.
He is expected to make to make an appearance this week in United States District Court.
The charge of interference with flight crew members and attendants carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The incident remains under investigation by the FBI.
Three L.A. County men have been charged in connection with a ring that kidnapped and held for ransom at least six people who were trying to cross into the United States illegally, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Edgar Lemus, 23, of Vernon; Francisco Hernandez Martinez, 20, of Vernon; and Junior Martinez, 23, of Watts are charged with conspiracy to launder money, the U.S. attorney's office announced.
It wasn't immediately clear whether they had attorneys to speak on their behalf.
The suspects pretended to offer assistance to people who wanted to cross the border from Mexico but instead held them for ransom and sometimes demanded additional money after receiving a payments, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege Lemus and the other two men picked up the ransom payments from relatives.
Lemus allegedly collected $19,000 in April at a Walmart store in South Gate from the husband of a woman who was kidnapped in Mexicali, authorities said.
“After delivering the payment, the kidnappers allegedly refused to release the victim and demanded additional payment," the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement. “After the victim’s husband told the kidnappers that they had made him crash his car and he was in the streets begging for more money, they stopped calling him."
The woman was released a couple of days later, authorities said.
The other two men allegedly picked up ransoms at a Walmart and a Target store last month.
If convicted, each could face 20 years in federal prison.
A Covina man employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he kidnapped his wife, who vanished almost five years ago, in an incident that led to her death, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Eddy Reyes, 35, was arrested on April 15 and charged with kidnapping his wife, Claudia Sanchez Reyes, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release.
Claudia Reyes was 21 when she vanished the night of May 6, 2016, after she left her job at an El Pollo Loco.
After her disappearance, Eddy Reyes told police that he had last heard from Claudia on May 7, and that she’d gone clubbing.
Four days after his wife was last seen, Reyes filed a missing person report with the Santa Ana Police Department. During the investigation, co-workers told police that they had heard the couple fighting prior to him picking her up in a rented SUV, an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint stated.
A drop of the woman's blood was later found in the vehicle, and a cadaver dog indicated a deceased person had been in the SUV's rear storage area at some point, investigators said.
Her body has still not been found, according to the criminal complaint.
“There is probable cause to believe that Reyes kidnapped Claudia by inveigling or decoying Claudia with a promise to take her dancing, and instead taking her to the home of his mother where Claudia was murdered," the document read.
Reyes had obtained two temporary restraining orders against her husband, once in 2014 and another in 2016. He had a "history of alleged domestic abuse ... against his wife, including several threats to kill her," the news release stated.
The affidavit also documents a history of alleged domestic abuse by Reyes against his wife, including death threats, as well as temporary restraining orders Claudia Reyes obtained against her husband in 2014 and 2016.
“Reyes physically and mentally abused Claudia," the document states, expanding on one instance where he allegedly paid a stranger $300 to steal his wife's phone because, he "told a coworker, whom he also asked to steal the phone, that the phone had incriminating evidence about him that could ruin his career.”
According to authorities, he later asked that same stranger to plant cocaine on his wife.
The document noted that Reyes suspected his wife of cheating on him with another man.
In her request for a domestic violence restraining order in August 2014, Claudia Reyes alleged that her husband had been physical with her and said he had forced himself on her sexually at least once. She said her son, then 2 years old, would wake up scared at night.
Reyes also provided photos of a bruise and scratch on her arm, saying the wounds had been inflicted by her husband.
Additionally, she also alleged that, when she had to go to work, her husband would not feed their son or change his diapers. Further, she said, he screamed at the boy and hit him. The child was 4 when his mother went missing.
About three weeks after the initial filing, Claudia Reyes requested that the restraining order be dismissed.
In the second temporary domestic violence restraining order from March 2016, she alleged that Reyes had threatened to take their son and kill himself if she did not dismiss the earlier order, and that she did so out of concern for the child, according to the complaint.
In the March 2016 order, Reyes requested her husband go to a yearlong “batterer intervention program" and expressed concern for her family's safety.
"I am frightened that my husband will hurt our son, me and/or himself. He is very violent and has a quick temper when things don’t go his way,” she wrote.
Eddy Reyes' mother also had a "very bad relationship" with her daughter-in-law, and at one point even threatened Claudia "that they (presumably referring to Reyes and her) could kill her and take her child from her," according to the criminal complaint.
Around the time of the first order, Reyes filed for divorce. However, the pair were still living together at their apartment on Bush Street in Santa Ana when she vanished, neighbors told KTLA in 2016.
No restraining order was in effect against Eddy Reyes at the time of his wife's disappearance, the Orange County Register reported in 2016.
Twice, Reyes was asked in a background questionnaire for his job at CBP — once in 2015 and again in 2020 — if he had been a "party to any public record civil court action" in the past decade. Both times he answered no, despite the two temporary restraining orders, according to the complaint.
Reyes has been held without bound since he was arrested earlier this month, prosecutors said. His arraignment is scheduled for May 3.
The defendant could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted on the charge of kidnapping resulting in death.
A five-count indictment was unsealed Friday against a 30-year-old man suspected of sexually assaulting someone last year at Yosemite National Park, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
Charles Porter, formerly of Chino Hills, was charged with the following: assault with intent to commit aggravated sexual abuse, assault with the intent to commit abusive sexual contact, attempted aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact, and assault by striking, beating or wounding, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release obtained by KTLA sister station KSEE/KGPE.
Porter is accused of assaulting the victim while making non-consensual sexual contact with him at an undisclosed part of Yosemite on April 14, 2020, according to court documents. Prosecutors say the defendant was trying to sexually assault the victim.
No other details about the incident were released.
Porter could face a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The National Park Service also assisted with the investigation.