Former Santa Ana teacher arrested on suspicion of child molestation


On Tuesday, members of the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force searched the residence of Robert Ruben Ornelas on the 13000 block of Prospect Avenue in Santa Ana. During the search, authorities found a large quantity of child pornography and evidence of child molestation.

Ornelas, 62, was charged with sexually assaulting a female relative beginning when she was 5 years old. He is accused of molesting the girl between 1990 and 1996. The incidents allegedly happened while she was visiting his home, and included masturbation and oral copulation.

According to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, a confidential informant tipped off authorities to Ornelas. Eyewitness News has learned that the informant is the suspect's brother, Ross Ornelas.

"I just happened to get into his computer. I saw that he had bought some property in the Philippines and there were some lewd things in the computer. Eventually that's how I came about it," said Ross Ornelas.

Authorities said they have at least two other victims, but believe there may be several others out there -- possibly dating back to the 1980s.

"After we arrested him, the search warrant netted numerous boxes of photos that have us concerned that there is many more victims out there," said Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Gavin. "We seized a computer that had evidence on it that showed that he was also engaged in criminal acts with children. That's the reason why we want to get this out there, in case there are any other victims."

Ornelas was employed as a teacher with the Santa Ana School District from 1992 to 2003 and coached a local girls softball team during that time.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the school district said, "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."

The suspect is also believed to have worked in or around an unlicensed day care near his home throughout the 1980s and possibly early 1990s.

Ornelas was charged with two felony counts of lewd acts on a child with sentencing enhancement allegations for substantial sexual conduct with a child. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.

Ornelas was scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon, but his arraignment was continued until June 28. A judge reduced his bail from $1 million to $100,000. A protective order was issued for Ornelas to stay away from the victim and family.

Barbara Powers, a neighbor who says she has known the Ornelas family for 40 to 50 years, said she's surprised by the allegations.

"He's always been just very quiet and no problem," said Powers.

Authorities, as well as the suspect's brother, are encouraging anyone with information to come forward.

"Whether it's a relative or a friend, turn him in. There's no excuse," said Ross Ornelas.

Anyone with information about additional victims or other information regarding this case was asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000 or the FBI's Orange County Office at (714) 939-8699.

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