L.A. County sheriff’s deputy charged with sex abuse of 12-year-old Costa Mesa girl

Jovanni Argueta
(File photo)

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor related to alleged sexual abuse of a 12-year-old Costa Mesa girl.

Jovanni Argueta, 26, could face up to nine years in state prison and six months in county jail if he is convicted of lewd acts with a child under 14, contacting a child with intent to commit a crime and violating a restraining order, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Argueta has not yet entered a plea. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Feb. 26.

Argueta, a Los Angeles resident, was arrested Oct. 28 at a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department training facility in Whittier. Authorities think he was the man that Costa Mesa Middle School staff had reported seeing on campus about a week earlier.

Police said at the time that they suspected Argueta was in an inappropriate relationship with one of the school’s students whom he had met through an online video game.

After communicating online, the two began meeting in person on the campus and elsewhere, according to authorities.

Argueta and the student, who is now 13, reportedly were seen kissing each other at the school, according to court documents.

Most documents related to Argueta’s case are sealed, but a sworn statement from a Costa Mesa police detective filed in Orange County Superior Court alleged that Argueta performed sex acts with the girl multiple times.

After Argueta was arrested and released from jail on bail, “he was seen on the victim’s school campus on two different occasions trying to contact the victim,” the detective wrote.

In November, Costa Mesa Middle School and Costa Mesa High School — which share campus space — were locked down after Argueta was seen leaving the parking lot, according to school officials.

According to the criminal complaint charging Argueta, the sexual abuse of the girl occurred between May 1 and Oct. 22 last year.

Though police arrested Argueta in October, the district attorney’s office did not file charges against him until Jan. 13.

Prosecutor Bobby Taghavi said such a delay is typical for a case involving evidence gathering that includes DNA analysis and forensic computer searches.

It’s unclear whether Argueta still works in law enforcement. Sheriff’s officials were unable to immediately answer questions about his employment status Friday.