A former Santa Ana teacher convicted last November of traveling to the Philippines to molest underage girls and videotaping the abuse was sentenced to 190 years in prison, federal authorities announced Monday.
District Judge Cormac J. Carney handed down the maximum punishment to 66-year-old Robert Ruben Ornelas after a jury found him guilty on seven felony charges, including engaging in sexual conduct in a foreign place, producing child pornography and possessing child porn, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Ornelas molested his victims “in a cruel manner,” showing a complete disregard for their humanity, Carney said during the sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors noted the defendant “has a long history of abusing children,” dating back more than half a century, the release stated.
Ornelas was convicted on charges that stemmed from three separate trips to the Philippines between 2006 and 2012.
During those trips, authorities say he sexually assaulted two girls who were as young as 8. He also videotaped the girls being molested and brought the images back to the U.S., according to the Department of Justice.
The two victims traveled to Orange County to testify against Ornelas. At the sentencing hearing on Monday, one of the victims stated the defendant “destroyed my dreams.”
“Today’s sentence ensures life imprisonment for this predator whose history of abusing minors began a half-century ago,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in the release “For seven years, this defendant repeatedly travelled to the Philippines, where he paid family members for sexual access to little girls who were living in poverty. The defendant claimed to be an attorney and promised to help the victims by funding their educations, but he brought trauma and anguish to their lives for which no amount of money could compensate.”
Federal authorities began investigating Ornelas in 2013 after receiving a tip that he had a “large quantity” of child pornography. They searched his home and found images, videos and other information on his computer.
Ornelas taught in the Santa Ana School District from 1992 to 2003 and also coached a girls’ softball team around the same time.
He was also believed to have worked in or around an unlicensed daycare facility in the 1980s, and possibly the early 1990s.
His history of preying on children began long before that, according to prosecutors, who said Ornelas began sexually abusing minors in the 1960s.
“This sentence should serve as a powerful deterrent to child predators who mistakenly believe the internet and a plane ticket will enable them to indulge their perverse desires with impunity,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles “HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners here in the U.S. and around the world to hold these dangerous sexual predators accountable for their actions. There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens.”