A trio of men, including a Southern California foster care provider, are accused of making child pornography using boys they lured from parks by telling the children they would work as child models, authorities announced Tuesday.
"I've seen cases similar to this, but this one is rather egregious," said Robert Goetsh, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Investigations unit. "This one rises to the top."
Erick Alan Monsivais, 29, of Los Angeles, William Clyde Thompson, 54, of Las Vegas, and John David Yoder, 43, of Desert Hot Springs are each charged with multiple sex-related felonies for allegedly operating the child porn ring.
The investigation began Jan. 28 after Riverside County authorities learned from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children about Thompson's arrest in Nevada. He was arrested and charged in Nevada in January 2013 but failed to appear in court that September, and may have removed a GPS monitor place on him during house arrest, prosecutors said.
Later in September 2013, Thompson was indicted in federal court in connection with child pornography and child exploitation charges.
Thompson was eventually arrested in Needles, California, on Jan. 27 by Nevada authorities and had used the aliases of Tony Bailor and Jason Brock, prosecutors said.
During the arrest, authorities found the phone numbers for Monsivais and Yoder in Thompson's phone, prosecutors said.
"He had requested to contact two other individuals in the city of Desert Hot Springs by the name of John David Yoder, and the other one is Erick Monsivais of Los Angeles County," said Andrew Liu of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Riverside County authorities began investigating Yoder and Monsivais.
Investigators learned Yoder had two adopted sons and was a licensed foster care provider in Riverside County, and also worked as a teacher's assistant at Desert Hot Springs High School, prosecutors said.
Yoder passed background checks and certifications needed to qualify as a foster care provider, officials said.
"At this point we are doing a review of our practices and we will be looking for any opportunity to strengthen our system," said Susan von Zabern, director of the Riverside County Department of Social Services.
Investigators said Desert Hot Springs Police Department received reports in March 2014 of two men "trying to solicit young boys at a skate park to do modeling," prosecutors said, adding that Yoder and Thompson were later identified as those two men.
Investigators believe Thompson paid Yoder to recruit boys to be photographed for use in child porn, and the pair allegedly showed the boys a fake modeling contract, prosecutors said. Yoder was arrested Jan. 30.
Thompson is also accused of sexually abusing a boy in Desert Hot Springs as well as in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Thompson is charged in connection with several sex charges including intercourse with a child 10 or younger, human trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to commit child pornography. His arraignment has not yet been scheduled, but he faces up to 85 years to life in prison.
Yoder is charged in connection with human trafficking of a minor, oral copulation and lewd acts with a child under 14, and aiding to avoid arrest of another. He has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 35 years to life in prison.
Monsivais was arrested Feb. 2 during the execution of a search warrant and is accused of taking part in the alleged molestations.
Monsivais is also accused of committing sex crimes against a child during trips to Orange County, prosecutors said. He is charged in connection with intercourse with a child 10 or younger, human trafficking of a minor, and oral copulation by force or fear of a child under 14, among other charges. Monsivais has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 167 years to life in prison.
Authorities did not release the number of alleged victims but said they are all under 14 years of age.
It is not immediately known if any of the accused men has retained an attorney.
Officials urged anyone who believes they "may have had suspicious or illegal contact" with any of the three men should call 866-SAFE595 (866-723-3595).
City News Service contributed to this report.