Santa Ana man arrested for sex w/ 12-year-old

SANTA ANA, Calif. Neftali Pena Procopio met the girl while playing basketball at /*Santa Ana High School*/ on Monday night.

According to police, Procopio and the girl struck up a conversation. She told authorities that she liked him because he was a good listener while she talked about family problems.

"She claimed she had family issues and they had talked and thought he was a good listener," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the /*Santa Ana Police Department*/.

Police said the 31-year-old told the girl he was in his 20s. She said she was 16.

Officers said that the two met up again hours later around 10 p.m. He persuaded her to sneak out of her Santa Ana home, picked her up, drove a few blocks away and parked.

Procopio allegedly told police they had smoked marijuana. Police on patrol allegedly caught the two having sex in Procopio's car while parked on Ross Street.

"Originally, the suspect tells the officer that the female is 19," Bertagna said. "It's apparent to the officers that's not the truth and starts the investigation. In his interview, he knew it was illegal, he was a lonely individual and he liked her company."

Other young students said the two should have made a better decision.

"I think it's very inappropriate because in a way I think they're just taking advantage of little girls," said Angelica Marquez, a young student.

"She should've known better," added student Nalleli Moreno. "Not even my little brother that's 8 years old. He still thinks better than that."

Procopio is facing charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years of age.

"It was quite apparent that he willingly contacted a minor obviously much younger than him, and so we want to look into see if he has done this in the past or if there are other people out there," Bertagna said.

Procopio has had run-ins with the law in the past. In 2008, he pled guilty to public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

In his currect case, police said Procopio could face up to seven years in prison if convicted. He remains in custody with bail set at $100,000.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.