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Joshua Tree CHP officer charged with child sex crimes

Joshua Tree CHP officer charged with child sex crimes
A California Highway Patrol officer from Joshua Tree who volunteered with youth church groups and a softball team was charged Friday with sex crimes involving a minor, authorities said. (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

A California Highway Patrol officer from Joshua Tree who volunteered with church youth groups and a softball team has been charged with three sex crimes, including molesting a minor, authorities said.

Robert Stephano, a 12-year CHP veteran assigned to the Morongo Basin Station, was arrested Friday in Twentynine Palms. He has been charged with committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child between 14 and 15 years old, communicating with a minor with intent to commit a sex crime and arranging to meet with a minor to commit a sex crime, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

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County investigators were contacted by the CHP’s Morongo Basin Station in May regarding allegations that Stephano, 44, had committed acts of sexual misconduct and child molestation, according to a news release by the Sheriff’s Department.

Stephano was accused of soliciting underage victims for various sexual acts as far back as July 2010, authorities said.

Stephano volunteered as an assistant softball coach for a Morongo Basin recreational league and assisted youth groups for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Stephano is accused of committing a lewd act on a 14-year-old girl between July 2011 and January 2012, and he contacted a 17-year-old girl between March and August in 2014, according to court records.

Anyone with information regarding the case, or who has been solicited by Stephano, is encouraged to call Det. James Tebbetts with the Specialized Investigations Division at (909) 387-3589. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call (800) WeTip (93847) or visit www.wetip.com.

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