Lawsuit alleges prominent SoCal youth soccer organizations ignored child protection policies in sex abuse case

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The family of a young soccer player is suing prominent Los Angeles-area soccer organizations over allegations of negligence that led to the sexual abuse of a young boy, San Diego-based law firm Estey & Bomberger announced Thursday.

The suit, filed in Riverside County Superior Court on Wednesday on behalf of a Southern California boy, alleges that the American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO), which is affiliated with U.S. Soccer, enabled the sexual abuse of young boys by ignoring organization policies designed to protect players.

According to the lawsuit, the sexual abuse victim was a player for an AYSO club in Southern California and was placed into a soccer camp run by UK International Soccer, a British company with headquarters in Redlands that provides coaches to local AYSO programs.

The lawsuit alleges that UK International Soccer brought Stephen Morgan from the UK to Southern California on a work visa to coach AYSO players.

The organization persuaded the plaintiff’s family to house Morgan, who began grooming and then sexually abusing the young player who was 11 years old at the time, the suit alleges.

Both Morgan and UK International Soccer are also named in the suit which alleges child sexual assault, negligence, negligent hiring, supervision and retention, and negligent failure to warn, train or educate.

“It doesn’t appear that any of the defendants did a background check on Morgan before allowing him access to the little boys and also placing him at my clients home, where he had direct access to my client,” Stephen Estey, the victim’s attorney said during a virtual press briefing announcing the lawsuit Thursday. “At no time did any of the defendants inform my client’s parents that no background check had been done on Morgan.”

The suit alleges that AYSO officials, including a local child and volunteer protection advocate and board member, were aware Morgan had repeatedly violated AYSO policies against being alone with child players.

The victim eventually confided about the abuse to his mother.

Morgan was arrested in September 2017 and charged with eight counts of committing lewd acts with a child under 14.

Morgan pled guilty to three counts as part of a plea agreement in December 2019. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“The harm in this case, like every sexual abuse case, is significant,” Estey said. “There’s been at least two suicide attempts and multiple other issues that require therapy.”

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