RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Authorities in the Inland Empire said they have busted one of the worst child-exploitation schemes in Southern California in recent years, allegedly involving a teaching assistant and foster parent.
Investigators say John Yoder is one of three men who prosecutors said lured victims by posing as modeling agents, preying on children younger than 10 in parks across Riverside County.
Yoder is a foster parent, and an investigation found that he also teaches special education for the Palm Springs Unified School District, according to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
“Ultimately, the children were forced into making child pornography, and were ultimately sexually assaulted,” Sheriff’s Department investigator Andy Liu said.
Police say that their late-January arrest of fugitive William Thompson sparked the investigation after he attempted to contact his accomplices. This led investigators to Yoder and Erick Monsivais.
While authorities did not confirm how long Yoder had worked for the Palm Springs School District or how long he had been a foster parent, one state official did confirm that Yoder had adopted two children.
Officials are looking into how he was able to enter the foster system.
“At this point, we are doing a review of our practices, and at this point, we have not reached any conclusions,” Department of Public and Social Services’ Susan von Zabern said. “But we will be looking at any opportunity to strengthen our system.”
Authorities say there are multiple victims but have not confirmed any number.
Anyone who may recognize any of these men or who may have information is asked to contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.