Los Angeles police have accused a 15-year-old skateboarding sensation, his adult manager and another man of sexually exploiting a 12-year-old girl who reportedly was "lured off the street in hopes of meeting celebrities."
In a statement released Thursday by the Los Angeles Police Department, investigators said they were taking the unusual step of publicizing the name of the juvenile suspect in order to identify other potential victims.
"We're taking exceptional measures to find additional victims because the fate of some young lives may be at stake," LAPD Det. Ninette Toosbuy said.
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Compton skateboarder Steven Fernandez, a YouTube personality who markets a clothing brand, was arrested along with his manager, Jose Barajas, 22, in a sting operation on Nov. 17, police said. Another man, Keelan Lamar Dadd, 27, a professional skateboarder, turned himself in on Dec. 3, authorities said.
According to investigators, the victim told them that Fernandez called her over to a car on Ventura Boulevard in Encino on Nov. 13. Fernandez allegedly told the girl he would introduce her to celebrities and include her in an "MTV special" if she engaged in sexual acts with the three men.
The victim's mother found out about the episode and police were informed. Investigators then posed as the 12-year-old and arranged by text message to meet the suspects in an abandoned home for sex.
As a result of that sting operation, Fernandez was booked on suspicion of procuring a child to engage in a lewd act, as well as lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.
He was released into his mother's custody and ordered to wear an ankle tracker.
Fernandez's attorney, Ryan D'Ambrosio, said Thursday that his client had been taken advantage of.
"Steven is just as much of a victim as the other minor involved," D'Ambrosio said. "We feel that his celebrity status was preyed upon by these adults."
D'Ambrosio said there would be no further statements until the completion of the investigation.
Barajas and Dadd also have been booked on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. Both have been released on bail.
Investigators said they believed that Fernandez and his friends cruised around places such as Encino and Hollywood trying to meet girls. The 12-year-old victim came forward in large part because her mother discovered the incident, Toosbuy said.
Detectives released the name of the 15-year-old, citing section 827.5 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows for the disclosure of the name of a minor taken into custody for commission of any serious felony.
Investigators said they wanted parents to look at the names and pictures of the defendants and ask their daughters whether there had been any contact.
"The way in which Steven Fernandez and his cohorts lured this 12-year-old, it appears that that's their lifestyle," Toosbuy said. "I'm afraid that there might be other tweens out there who fell into the trappings of this particular young girl and might be ashamed and embarrassed to say anything."
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