Crime

Substitute at Christian schools in Valley, Yosemite camp arrested on child porn charges

Justin Daniel Villegas
Justin Daniel Villegas Special to The Bee

A substitute teacher who worked at two Christian schools in the central San Joaquin Valley and a summer camp in Yosemite National Park has been arrested on charges of possessing child pornography, the Hanford Police Department reported Wednesday.

Justin Daniel Villegas, 22, was arrested around 7 p.m. Tuesday at his residence on the 1900 block of West Heather Lane in Hanford.

Police said Villegas was in possession of more than 600 images of child porn.

Investigators learned Villegas had worked as a substitute teacher at Armona Union Academy, a private Christian elementary school just west of Hanford; and Fresno Adventist Academy, affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. He also previously worked as a summer camp counselor at Camp Wawona in Yosemite, a member of the Christian Camp and Conference Association.

Hanford police said they first received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding a person possibly possessing child pornography. Multiple investigative leads were followed, police said, which led to Villegas’ arrest.

“Hanford PD investigators learned Justin Daniel Villegas had used an online data storage service to possess approximately 800 images and videos depicting children under the age of 18 in actual or simulated sexual acts,” police said.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Hanford Police Department and ask to speak to Detective Jarred Cotta at 559-585-2540.

The Central California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which oversees the schools and camp, shared a statement about Villegas’ arrest.

“The administrations of the Conference, schools, and Camp Wawona are cooperating with law enforcement,” part of the statement reads. “We have no indication that any of our students or campers were involved in this matter.”

The Central California Conference also requested that anyone with information contact the Hanford Police Department, and stated “children are our most valuable asset and we remain committed to this end.”

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.
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