Robert Ruben Ornelas, Former Santa Ana Teacher Accused of Molesting Girl Relative, Was Outed by Brother: Update
See Update No. 3 at the bottom of Page 2 on Ross Ornelas, the brother of the suspect, identifying himself as the one who turned Robert Ornelas in to authorities. Update No. 2 on page 2 has more details on the evidence and possible federal child porn charges coming. Update No. 1 on the next page details the current charges, possible punishment and revelation that the victim was a girl relative who was 5 when the molestations began.
Photos courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 13, 11:26 A.M.: Robert Ruben Ornelas' mugshot is beyond the Ugliest Police Mugshot of the Week. Indeed, it's The Police Mugshot Most Likely to Make Phil Spector Jealous. The former Santa Ana teacher, girls softball coach and day-care worker's alleged crime is ugly: molesting a girl, age 12 or younger, from 1990-95.
Informed that the 62-year-old may be in possession of child pornography, the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force (OCCETF) launched an investigation in April, according to an Orange County Sheriff's Department statement.
Before serving a search warrant at Ornelas' home in unincorporated Santa Ana Tuesday, OCCETF members were informed the suspect made incriminating statements regarding the molestation of a girl in the early 1990s, deputies say.
The statement does not go into detail about the alleged molestation of a girl 12 or younger, but it does indicate a large amount of child porn was discovered in the home and that it showed there may be several other young victims from as far back as the early 1980s.
"Ornelas may have worked in or around an unlicensed day care center at a private residence that operated near his home on the 13000 block of Prospect in Santa Ana throughout the 1980s and possibly the early 1990s," the statement reads. "He also was a teacher with the Santa Ana [Unified] School District and a local girls' softball coach from approximately 1992 to 2003."
He is being held on $1 million bail, according to a separate statement from the FBI.
The task force included this second mugshot of Ornelas from 2001, which would have been in his later teaching/coaching days:
Due to the number of children Ornelas was close to over the years, authorities are reaching out for other possible victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714.647.7000 or the FBI's Orange County office at 714.939.8699. Anonymous tips can be left at OC Crimestoppers at 855.TIP.OCCS (855.847.6227) or by visiting occrimestoppers.org.
The OCCETF is a multi-agency team which includes the FBI, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Orange County Sheriff's Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the police departments of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
UPDATE NO. 1, JUNE 13, 12:09 P.M.: Robert Ornelas began molesting a female relative in the 1990s beginning when she was 5 years old, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) reveals in an arraignment statement.
He is scheduled to be arraigned in the Santa Ana Central Jail this afternoon on two felony counts of lewd acts on a child with sentencing enhancement allegations for substantial sexual conduct with a child. Conviction could bring a 10-year prison sentence.
Countering the earlier FBI statement, which indicated Ornelas' bail was $1 million, the OCDA claims he is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
"Between 1990 and 1996, Ornelas is accused of sexually assaulting a female relative beginning when she was 5 years old," reads the OCDA statement. "He is accused of molesting the victim while she was visiting his home including masturbation and oral copulation."
The victim was discovered during the OCCETF child pornography investigation, explain prosecutors, who add that probe "is ongoing."
The OCDA also adds to the list of contacts (detailed in the original post) that people can call if they have more information to help investigators. It's that of Supervising District Attorney Investigator Paul Carvo at 714.347.8794.
UPDATE NO. 2, JUNE 14, 6:35 P.M.: In addition to the state molestation case against Robert Ruben Ornelas, it is possible the 62-year-old will also be prosecuted by the federal government on pornography charges because a conviction in federal court would carry more time behind bars, according to Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky.
Speaking with City News Service, Bokosky also shed more light on the evidence in the molestion case. The alleged victim made a covert call to Ornelas with investigators listening in just before executing the search warrant on his residence in unincorporated Santa Ana, where a "large quantity" of child porn was uncovered, the prosecutor reportedly said.
A Los Angeles television station says it was told by an investigator the case will take a long time to unravel due to the shear number of images found on Ornelas' computer.
Before serving the warrant, investigators "were advised Ornelas had made incriminating statements'' regarding the molestation of a girl in the early 1990s, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. He made more incriminating statements when investigators searched his home, according to Bokosky, who added that authorities are interviewing a couple of other potential victims.
Ornelas allegedly molested the girl between 1990 and 1996, beginning when she was 5 and continuing "until she had the courage to tell him to stop'' at age 11, Bokosky said.
Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Unified School District issued the following statement:
We are deeply troubled to learn that a former substitute teacher, who last worked in our district in 2003, allegedly engaged in this reprehensible behavior and took advantage of the trust inherent in his profession.
UPDATE NO. 3, JULY 14, 6:35 A.M.: In interviews with all the Los Angeles television stations Thursday, Ross Ornelas outed himself as the one who turned his brother, Robert, in to authorities.
Ross explained to Fox 11 News that he went to use his brother's computer and stumbled upon photos from the Philippines that revealed Robert had done more than buy property there.
"[T]here were some lewd things in the computer," Ross told KABC Eyewitness News. "Eventually that's how I came about it."
There were pictures of his brother with children from the Philippines, Ross explained. He told KTLA/Channel 5 these included "lewd" images of "little girls ... and little boys."
"I didn't sleep for a couple nights, and I'm still shocked over it," he explained to KABC. So shocked at the time that he contacted the local FBI office, a move Ross does not regret.
"If anybody has a member in their family, a friend, turn them in. Hell with them," Ross told KNBC/Channel 4. "They deserve justice."
Many will deserve justice if sheriff's Lt. Mike Gavin is to be believed.
"We're talking boxes of photos, so hundreds of photos, hard copies of the photos," he told one TV reporter. "As well as an unknown amount of photos that are digitally stored on the computer."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts