Joshua Tree CHP officer arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct, child molestation

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. (KABC) -- A California Highway Patrol officer was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct and child molestation Friday.

Robert Stephano, 44, was arrested in Twentynine Palms and booked into the Central Detention Center.

The Joshua Tree resident was then charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child between 14 and 15 years old, communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime and arranging to meet with a minor to commit a sex crime.

Authorities said two of his alleged victims were girls ages 14 and 17.

The investigation began in May, when investigators with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department were contacted by the Morongo Basin Station over allegations against Stephano.

Stephano, who has been with the CHP for 12 years, was assigned to the station.

Detectives assumed the investigation, and Stephano is suspected of soliciting underage victims for various sex acts as far back as July 2010.

He volunteered as an assistant softball coach at Morongo Basin recreational league and also assisted youth groups for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Stephano is held on $250,000 bail.

The investigation is ongoing.

Authorities urge anyone with more information or who may have been solicited by Stephano to contact Detective James Tebbetts at (909) 387-3589. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call the We-Tip hotline at (800) WE-TIP.
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