ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- The owner of an Anaheim dance studio on Thursday was formally charged with 18 counts in connection with the alleged sexual assault of six girls.
Mark Anthony Chavarria, 40, of Riverside, was charged with 15 counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child younger than 14, two counts of oral copulation of an underage victim and a count of sexual penetration by foreign object of an underage victim, all felonies.
He also faces a sentencing enhancement for multiple victims.
The victims, who are 12 and 14, alleged they were assaulted while taking classes at the defendant's business, Chavarria Institute of the Arts dance studio at 160 S. Old Springs Road, Unite 155, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Jon McClintock.
"Mr. Chavarria owned and operated the Chavarria Institute of Arts here in Anaheim Hills where he taught young girls basically dance arts and we believe the assaults occurred at or near his facility," he said.
McClintock said detectives launched their investigation after alleged victims came forward last month.
"They identified numerous victims and believe the assaults occurred over numerous years," he said.
Investigators believe Chavarria has been in the dance industry for more than a decade and has been involved in studios throughout Southern California and Phoenix Metro area.
"It is very crucial that we have victims or potential witnesses to come forward for the investigation," McClintock said.
Parents of children who attend the school like M. Levin said this is a difficult situation but they want to keep things as normal as they can for the kids who are in the middle of their competitive dance season.
"The staff has done an amazing job at making sure that the competitions are going to continue," Levin said. "The kids know as little as possible and that's kind of the way we want to keep it."
Chavarria was arrested Tuesday and was being held on $5 million bail.
Anyone with information was asked to call detectives at 714-765-1969. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855- TIP-OCCs. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31.
City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.