Ventura Musician at Center of Tainted Flute Investigation Arrested in Federal Case
A musician and music teacher from Ventura who formerly contracted with school districts throughout Southern California and ran a program being investigated by state and federal officials after allegations flutes tainted with semen were being distributed to children was arrested Thursday on federal charges of victimizing children online and trading in child pornography, authorities said.
John Edward Zeretzke, 60, is named in a five-count federal indictment alleging coercing a minor to produce child pornography, attempting to entice a minor to send him sexually explicit images, traveling to the Philippines with intent to engage in sex with minors and twice receiving child pornography over the internet, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said. He’s was scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon, though an update was not available.
None of the alleged victims were in Southern California, Mrozek said. “It appears he contacted these individuals over the internet.”
Zeretzke’s former organization, Flutes Around the World, became the subject of a state investigation last year after claims emerged that flutes created and distributed to school children under the program had been contaminated with semen.
That case remains under investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, but no charges have been filed, according to the attorney general’s office.
Under the program, Zeretzke would show children how to make two flutes from PVC pipe: one to keep for themselves, and one to be donated to another child in need, including children in the Philippines, when the organization had volunteers, according to the organization’s website, which has since been pulled offline.
But allegations that the flutes may have been contaminated with bodily fluids prompted schools to quickly drop the program and issue warnings to parents.
School districts Zeretzke worked with included the Los Angeles Unified, Saugus Union, Capistrano Unified, Fountain Valley, Culver City, Newport-Mesa and Fullerton, the L.A. Times reported.
But Mrozek said investigators had no indication that Zeretzke met any of his victims through his work.
The charges Zeretzke is accused of carry the possibility of a lengthy prison term.
If convicted as charged, Zeretzke could spend the rest of his life behind bars. The charge of production of child pornography, alone, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.