Riverside school counselor arrested, accused of secretly recording boys inside school’s restroom

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Detectives arrested a former school counselor in Riverside accused of secretly recording young boys in a restroom at the campus, authorities said Thursday.

Matthew Daniel Johnson, 30, appears in a photo released by the Fontana Police Department on March 5, 2020.
Matthew Daniel Johnson, 30, appears in a photo released by the Fontana Police Department on March 5, 2020.

Matthew Daniel Johnson, 30, remains held on $100,000 bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of possessing more than 600 images of sex crimes against children, including ones involving “sadism,” according to county inmate records.

The principal of La Sierra Academy, where Johnson worked as a counselor, said he was “immediately” fired, according to a news release from Riverside police.

Investigators with the Fontana Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force first identified Johnson as a suspect in a child pornography investigation, according to the department. They served a search warrant Wednesday at his home in Loma Linda.

Fontana police said detectives found evidence of Johnson downloading and distributing materials showing sexual abuse of children, specifically “images and videos (that) depicted prepubescent boys.” They seized multiple electronic devices from the home.

But authorities also discovered Johnson works as a school counselor at La Sierra Academy in Riverside, according to police. The search allegedly revealed Johnson used a hidden camera to secretly record boys inside a restroom at the school.

When investigators served a warrant at La Sierra Academy, they found and seized more evidence corroborating the allegations that he recorded children, according to police.

The Riverside Police Department continues to investigate those allegations as Johnson remains held in San Bernardino County on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

“At this point, it is still unknown how many students were captured on these hidden recordings, and investigators are currently working to identify them,” reads a news release from Riverside police. “The children were not aware they were being recorded by Mr. Johnson.”

School officials have been cooperating with authorities, and La Sierra’s principal gave a statement included in the news release from police.

“We are shocked, horrified, and saddened by what this investigation has already revealed,” reads the statement from Elizabeth Munoz Beard, principal of La Sierra Academy.

“My heart is broken,” Beard said. “We love the children and their families that we serve. Their safety and well-being is our highest priority.”

La Sierra Academy describes itself as a K-12 Seventh-day Adventist Christian school with an average enrollment of about 555 students.

Anyone with information can reach Detective Christi Arnold of the Riverside Police Department at 951-353-7945 or by email at carnold@riversideca.gov. Those wishing to remain anonymous can fill out this online form through WeTip.

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