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Former O.C. teacher gets 190 years for 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 former Santa Ana teacher was sentenced to 190 years in federal prison Monday for traveling to the Philippines to have sex with two girls and videotaping the abuse, according to the United States attorney’s office.

Robert Ruben Ornelas, 66, of Santa Ana, was convicted in November by a federal grand jury 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.

During the court hearing, prosecutors said, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney told Ornelas that he “molested children in a ‘cruel manner’ ” and had “demonstrated a complete disregard for his victims’ humanity.”

According to prosecutors, one of the girls addressed the court, saying, “Why did I meet this person? He destroyed my dreams.”

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Ornelas taught at the Santa Ana Unified School District from 1992 to 2003 and coached a girls’ softball team.

According to the attorney’s office, Ornelas has a long history of abusing children, stemming back to the 1960s.

In this case, federal prosecutors said Ornelas traveled to the Philippines on multiple occasions between March 2006 and April 2012. He was convicted in relation to three trips in 2006, 2008 and 2012.

During the trips, Ornelas rented hotel rooms and abused two girls who were as young as 8, according to federal prosecutors. He videotaped the molestation and brought the recordings with him when he returned to the U.S., prosecutors said.

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The two victims traveled to the U.S. to testify during the six-day trial. Authorities say Ornelas also worked at a day care facility near his home for about a decade.

“For seven years, this defendant repeatedly traveled to the Philippines, where he paid family members for sexual access to little girls who were living in poverty,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “The defendant claimed to be an attorney and promised to help the victims by funding their educations, but he brought trauma and anguish to their lives for which no amount of money could compensate.”

Federal authorities began investigating Ornelas in 2013 when they received a tip that he had a large quantity of child pornography. Investigators found images, videos and evidence of abuse on Ornelas’ computer and digital media at his Santa Ana home, prosecutors said.

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

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veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA


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