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Former O.C. teacher convicted of molesting girls in Philippines and making videos of abuse

Robert Ruben Ornelas is seen in a driver's license photo, left, and his booking photo.
(FBI)

A federal jury on Thursday found a former Santa Ana teacher guilty of traveling to the Philippines to have sex with two girls and producing videos of the abuse, according to the United States attorney’s office.

Robert Ruben Ornelas, 65, of Santa Ana, was convicted of two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, three counts of producing child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography.

Ornelas taught in the Santa Ana Unified School District from 1992 to 2003 and coached a girls’ softball team. Federal prosecutors said he traveled to the Philippines on multiple occasions and was convicted in relation to three trips in 2006, 2008 and 2012.

During those trips, he sexually assaulted two girls who were as young as 8, prosecutors said. Ornelas videotaped the abuse and brought the recordings with him when he returned to the U.S.

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The two victims traveled to the U.S. to testify during the six-day trial.

Ornelas is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney on Feb. 27. He faces a mandatory minimum 15-year prison term for each of the three child pornography production charges and a statutory maximum penalty of 190 years in federal prison.

“Pedophiles in the U.S. will not escape prosecution by traveling to foreign lands to victimize children,” U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker said in a statement.

The case, she said, “serves as a lesson and warning to any other person considering a trip to engage in sex with minors.”

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The investigation into Ornelas began in 2013 when federal authorities received a tip that he possessed a large quantity of child pornography. Investigators searching his Santa Ana home found images, videos and evidence of abuse on Ornelas’ computer and digital media, prosecutors said.

Ornelas had already been charged with lewd acts with a minor relative, and authorities said at the time that there may have been other victims.

The federal charges were the result of an investigation by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes federal agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the Newport Beach Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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Twitter: @haileybranson

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