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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

Monday, October 27, 2014

Former Orange County Teacher Named In Federal Sex Tourism Case

SANTA ANA, California – A former teacher with the Santa Ana School District has been charged with traveling to the Philippines to engage in sex with an underage girl and producing a video of the encounter.

Robert Ruben Ornelas, 63, of Santa Ana, was taken into federal custody Friday afternoon after being named in a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court.

The three-count complaint accuses the onetime school teacher and girl’s softball coach of engaging in sexual conduct in a foreign place, producing child pornography, and possessing child pornography.

Ornelas also faces state charges of lewd acts with a child, but the defendant was turned over to federal custody on Friday after the new complaint was filed.

The federal complaint details allegations that Ornelas traveled in March 2012 to the Philippines, where he engaged in sexual conduct with a girl who was approximately 14. According to the affidavit in the case, Ornelas took video of his encounter with the girl and brought the images with him when he returned the U.S. the following month. The third count in the complaint accuses the defendant of knowingly possessing the child pornography.

While Ornelas is charged with conduct related to one victim, the affidavit discusses evidence linking him to the sexual molestation of additional victims.

The federal case is based on information and images found on Orenelas’ computer and digital media seized by investigators when they executed a search warrant at his residence. On the seized media, investigators discovered communications between Ornelas and several underage girls in the Philippines dating back to 2007. Investigators also found numerous sexually explicit photos and videos of underage girls.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office previously charged Ornelas with two counts of lewd conduct with a child for allegedly molesting a relative. While those charges remain pending at this time, Ornelas was transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service Friday afternoon to facilitate the federal prosecution.

At his initial court appearance Friday afternoon in federal court, Ornelas was ordered held without bond and was ordered to appear at an arraignment on November 10.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The three charges in the criminal complaint carry a cumulative maximum sentence of 80 years in federal prison. The charge of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.

The federal charges are the product of an ongoing probe by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Newport Beach Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Release No. 14-141

Updated June 22, 2015