Guitar Center is conducting an internal investigation after a guitar teacher at its Riverside location was charged with lewd acts with a child, the company said in a statement that included an apology.
The arrest of Nathaniel Hernandez, 27, by Riverside police last week gained attention earlier this week when a coworker of his posted an emotional Facebook video in which she criticized Guitar Center for its response to the case.
As of early Wednesday evening, piano teacher Marie Strassenburg’s video has received more than 3.3 million views since she posted it Monday night. She alleged a manager at the store refused to notify parents about Hernandez’s arrest and the charges against him, among other concerns.
“I didn’t appreciate how everybody was so hush-hush about it. They told us, ‘You need to tell all the students, he’s sick, he’s not coming back, that’s why,'” Strassenburg told KTLA Tuesday night.
Hernandez has been charged with five counts of lewd acts and one count of sodomy, allegedly with a child under 14. Riverside police said they’re seeking possible additional victims.
In a brief statement Tuesday afternoon, Guitar Center told KTLA it was “fully cooperating” with the law enforcement investigation.
But on Wednesday afternoon, the Westlake Village-based music equipment retailer issued an updated statement. Guitar Center said it was conducting a “thorough internal investigation that is being supervised by a former federal prosecutor.”
The company said that Hernandez, whom Guitar Center did not name, was fired for not showing up for work before police got in contact about his arrest.
Further, the company asserted again that it does conduct background checks on potential employees, and said specifically it hired an outside firm to do so in this case.
Strassenburg alleged in her video that a corporate-level employee told her “background checks cost money” and that was part of the reason Hernandez was hired despite having a criminal record.
Hernandez was convicted of felony burglary in 2008, Riverside County court records show.
Guitar Center’s updated statement said the burglary conviction was not flagged in a background check because California law prohibits private firms from reporting past convictions that are more than seven years old.
The company also said its outside firm confirmed Hernandez was not listed on the national sex offender registry.
“We are profoundly saddened by this situation and we are sorry for any trauma that customers, employees and anyone else may be feeling as a result,” Guitar Center said. “The safety of our customers and associates is our top priority.”
The company urged anyone with information the case to contact Riverside police.