LAKE COUNTY, Calif .– Authorities in Southern California have arrested a teacher at Terrace Middle School who is accused of attempting to meet someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.
Ricardo Ruiz, 36, from Clearlake was taken into custody Thursday night in Brea.
He was arrested on felony charges of contacting a minor to commit a felony, arranging a meeting with a minor for obscene purposes and meeting a minor for obscene purposes, said Lt. Tony Barbosa of the department. Brea Police Station.
Ruiz did not meet a minor, however. Instead, he had chatted online with an adult posing as a young teenage girl as part of an undercover operation by a private group called CC unit.
Ruiz arranged a meeting with the decoy and was in Brea to meet with her when he was arrested.
Lakeport Unified School District superintendent Matt Bullard confirmed to Lake County News that Ruiz is an employee of the district.
Bullard said Ruiz had been a physical education teacher at Terrace Middle School since August.
The founder of CC Unit, who identified himself as “Ghost” to protect his anonymity and future operations, said his group never made initial contact with an individual.
He said Ruiz contacted the Decoy through a messaging app on the night of November 22 and during their scheduled interactions to meet with her this week, over the winter break.
During their ongoing conversations, Ruiz said he was 27 and âsaid a bunch of graphic stuffâ of a sexual nature, Ghost said.
Ghost said he clashed with Ruiz when he showed up at a scheduled meeting at a Target store in a Brea mall on Thursday.
Barbosa said the Brea Police Department was not working with the CC unit, but were told they were making a recording of an undercover operation at the Gateway Mall.
Ghost explained that he streamed live opposite Ruiz at the store. He said his group did not call the police, adding that he believed it was a live viewer who called them.
Officers arrested Ruiz in the mall parking lot, Barbosa said.
Late Friday afternoon, Bullard sent a letter to parents about the situation, explaining that the Brea Police Department had notified the district of Ruiz’s arrest.
âThe main concern of the district is the safety of our students, our employees and the school community as a whole. As such, we will participate fully in all law enforcement investigations. Unfortunately, in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we are unable to provide additional information, âwrote Bullard.
“LUSD has been in contact with law enforcement and legal counsel and will immediately initiate a local investigation into the conduct and behavior of the teacher in question. This investigation will be coupled with immediate action to ensure safety. of our student body and our school community, âcontinued Bullard’s letter.
Ruiz was immediately put on leave and will not be at Terrace Middle School when the students return on Monday January 3, Bullard said.
Bullard has asked parents to report any incidents or issues involving Ruiz to the district office.
Ruiz, who was held at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County after his arrest, was released just before 5 p.m. on Friday, according to prison records online.
The operations of the CC unit resulted in another arrest in Brea, Barbosa confirmed.
Separately, Ghost said their bites, which began in 2018, have led to many arrests and some convictions in other parts of the state.