founder of the music program Flutes Across the World charged with child pornography | Crime and courts

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The founder of a music program contracted by a Santa Ynez Valley summer camp has been charged by the federal government with child pornography, exploitation charges, but camp operators said the allegations are not not related to their program.

Former Ventura music teacher John Edward Zeretzke, 60, was arrested Thursday by the US Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agencies in the investigation.

Zeretzke is the founder of Flutes Across the World, which has contracted with Circle V Ranch Camp near Cachuma Lake and many Southern California school districts to provide music education programs.

However, Circle V officials said the alleged crimes did not involve any campers, and investigators said none of the victims were children from Southern California.

“Circle V staff have not received any official notification or request from any authority at this time regarding Flutes’ activities around the world at Circle V Ranch Camp,” officials said in a statement Thursday.

“There have been no complaints or concerns regarding (Flutes Across the World) and John Zeretzke from Campers, counselors or parents of Circle V staff,” the statement said. “Camp staff will continue to monitor this situation very closely and will let you know if anything changes as soon as possible. “

Zeretzke first appeared Thursday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles U.S. District Court, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Rhoades, who is pursuing the case.

Zeretzke is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, where he awaits a detention hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, when the attorney discusses his bail. A tentative trial date has been set for November 6. A lawyer from the Federal Public Defender’s office has been appointed to represent him, Rhoades said.

Rhoades confirmed on Friday that over the past year, several search warrants were served on Zeretzke’s residence in Ventura County, along with his personal iCloud account on his computer.

When asked if Zeretzke was in any way related to the flutes that were sent to 13 school districts across the state which were later seized by the US Postal Inspection Service and the US Department of Justice in October 2017, Rhoades said that Zeretzke’s current criminal case was nothing. to do with this matter, but directed all investigations to the state attorney general’s office.

On Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office confirmed that Zeretzke was under investigation, but declined to comment further.

The federal indictment filed against Zeretzke accuses him of five counts of coercing a minor to produce child pornography, soliciting a child to send him sexually explicit images, receiving / transporting twice child pornography on the Internet and traveling to the Philippines with the intention of engaging in sexual behavior. with minors. The crimes were allegedly committed between 2015 and 2017.

The details of the indictment further allege that between November 6, 2015 and May 28, 2017, in Los Angeles, Zeretzke attempted to coerce a 15-year-old girl into sexual activity and used Facebook. to send messages to minors.

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On November 7, 2015, “during a conversation on Facebook, an underage victim told Zeretzke that she planned to lose her virginity on her 16th birthday, to which Zeretzke said he had always wanted to have sex with a virgin and that he wished he could be. that person for the victim. “

In that same conversation, Zeretzke reportedly sent the child about eight photos of him sleeping with his ex-girlfriend. The next day, Zeretzke reportedly sent around eight photos of his genitals to the child, along with 26 photos of himself masturbating to ejaculation, according to the indictment.

Zeretzke also asked the teenager to see a photo of her genitals up close and described in detail how he would like to have sex with her, the indictment continued.

On December 15, 2015, Zeretzke told the same victim that he sent her a pair of cowboy boots as a Christmas present; a week later, during another Facebook chat with the same victim, he allegedly asked her to send more photos after she had already sent him photos of herself wearing the boots, according to the act of ‘charge.

Between August 2017 and September 2017, Zeretzke reportedly traveled to the Philippines to have sex with a minor aged 12 to 16, according to the indictment. The indictment also alleges that on August 17, 2017 and August 19, 2017, Zeretzke received child pornography on his Facebook account.

Several of the alleged offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences, including 15 years in prison for producing child pornography. Zeretzke faces a maximum life sentence if convicted on all counts, according to Rhoades.

Circle V Ranch Camp has contracted with Flutes Across the World to provide music education to campers aged 7 to 13 in specific weeklong sessions in July 2011, July 2012, July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015, said a spokesperson for the camp.

In the Flutes Across the World sessions, children make two folk flutes from PVC pipes and can keep one, while the other “friendship flute” is to be given to a child elsewhere in the world.

Flutes made by children at Circle V Ranch Camp in 2014 were reportedly brought to children in the Philippines by Zeretzke as part of a goodwill mission later in the year.

He reportedly delivered 600 flutes to the Philippines in December.

Zeretzke’s program garnered considerable attention, earning him newspaper and magazine reports as well as television commercials.

In May 2014, Arts Outreach and Wildling Museum presented Zeretzke in a free performance on his ancient flutes and other wind instruments at the Solvang Museum.


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