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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 27, 2017

Orange County Man Sentenced to 190 Years in Federal Prison for Traveling to Philippines to Molest Young Girls and Filming the Abuse

          SANTA ANA, California – A onetime school teacher who traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with two girls and produced videos of the abuse was ordered today to serve 190 years in federal prison.

          Robert Ruben Ornelas, 66, of Santa Ana, who has a long history of abusing children, received the 2,280-month sentence from United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

          During today’s hearing, Judge Carney said Ornelas molested children in a “cruel manner” and the defendant demonstrated a complete disregard for his victims’ humanity.

          Ornelas was found guilty in November by a federal jury of seven counts – two counts of engaging in sexual conduct in a foreign place, three counts of producing child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography.

          The evidence presented during a six-day trial showed that Ornelas traveled to the Philippines on multiple occasions. He was convicted in relation to three specific trips – in 2006, 2008 and 2012 – where he sexually assaulted two girls who were as young as approximately eight. During all three trips, Ornelas took videos of the molestation and brought the images with him when he returned the U.S.

          The two victims travelled to the United States to testify during the trial about the sexual assaults, and made statements at today’s hearing. One of the victims said: “Why did I meet this person? He destroyed my dreams.”

          “Today’s sentence ensures life imprisonment for this predator whose history of abusing minors began a half-century ago,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “For seven years, this defendant repeatedly travelled to the Philippines, where he paid family members for sexual access to little girls who were living in poverty. The defendant claimed to be an attorney and promised to help the victims by funding their educations, but he brought trauma and anguish to their lives for which no amount of money could compensate.”

          The investigation into Ornelas began in 2013 when federal authorities received a tip that he possessed a large quantity of child pornography. During the execution of a search warrant, investigators found images, videos and information on Ornelas’ computer and digital media.

          In sentencing papers filed with the court, prosecutors pointed out that Ornelas’ history of sexually abusing minors extended back to the 1960s.

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

          “This sentence should serve as a powerful deterrent to child predators who mistakenly believe the internet and a plane ticket will enable them to indulge their perverse desires with impunity,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners here in the U.S. and around the world to hold these dangerous sexual predators accountable for their actions. There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens.”

          “Defendant Ornelas took advantage of impoverished children in a foreign country, away from the scrutiny of the United States, where his past involved abusing children,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “His young victims demonstrated tremendous bravery by traveling to a foreign country to testify about the crimes perpetrated against them, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for assisting the government in putting Ornelas away for the rest of his life.”

          This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sandy N. Leal and Anne C. Gannon of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

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Updated February 28, 2017