East L.A. College student lured teen from campus and sexually assaulted her, police say

An East Los Angeles College student has been charged with luring a teenage girl from the school’s Monterey Park campus and sexually assaulting her at his Los Angeles home, and police believe the man may have attacked at least one other woman, investigators said Wednesday.

Joao Affonso, 27, was arrested July 21 and charged with unlawful sex with a minor and felony oral copulation with a minor, Capt. Ruby Flores, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division, said at a news conference.

The reported victim was a 16-year-old high school student who was trying to earn college credits at the campus. Affonso befriended her and she eventually went to his residence in Boyle Heights, where the assaults took place earlier this year, Flores said.

Affonso pleaded not guilty to the sex abuse charges, court records show. He was released on $200,000 bail late last month and is due back in court next week, according to records. The alleged assaults took place in late June and early July in the 2200 block of East Alcazar Street in Boyle Heights, according to an LAPD spokeswoman.

Det. Cynthia Peraza, the lead investigator on the case, said Affonso was suspected of assaulting at least one other woman, and urged her and any other potential victims to speak out.

Affonso began “grooming” his victim by offering to help her study for a math class and chatting her up in empty classrooms on the college’s campus, Peraza said.

He “befriended her and started wooing her by asking her to study, go to get coffee, hang out with her and become friends. Ultimately, it progressed,” Flores said.

Affonso allegedly assaulted the victim on two occasions, according to Peraza, and convinced her to smoke marijuana before one of the attacks.

Affonso has been enrolled at the college since the fall semester of 2016, said Los Angeles Community College District spokesman Yusef Robb.

“The safety and security of our students is always our paramount concern. Although this was an off-campus incident, the district stands ready to do everything it can to assist in this investigation,” Robb said in a statement.

Flores says she is aware that some victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are reluctant to contact police in Boyle Heights for fear those interactions could put them at risk for deportation — a concern that has been echoed by many law enforcement officials in due to the Trump administration’s calls for increased immigration enforcement.

The captain urges any teenagers who have been approached by Affonso to contact the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division immediately.

“We want them to know that they can come forward without fear of deportation or any questions about their status,” she said.

Sonia Ramirez, director of sexual assault training and outreach at the nearby East L.A. Women’s Center, says sexual assault suspects typically exhibit a pattern of behavior when approaching younger girls and likely have more than one victim.

“When it happens once, it happens several times,” she said.

james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.


UPDATES:

9:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from a Los Angeles Community College District spokesman.

This article was originally published at 7:55 p.m.

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