Drum school director accused of sexually assaulting teen in Orange County

SANTA ANA — Santa Ana police and prosecutors asked for the public’s help Wednesday tracking down potential victims of a registered sex offender charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Patrick Michael Costello of Orange, 56, founder and director of Synergy Drum Corps, is accused of offering a student, who was 14 or 15 years old, money in February to engage in sex, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Costello was convicted in 2014 of sending “inappropriate text messages” to another teenage boy, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Costello pleaded not guilty Friday to six counts of lewd acts on a child 14 or 15, three counts of annoying or molesting a child younger than 18 with a prior conviction for a sex crime, and a count of oral copulation of an underaged victim, according to prosecutors.

Costello could face up to nine years in prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.

Since Costello met the victim when the boy was a student, investigators suspect there may be more victims, Bertagna said.

“According to Costello’s LinkedIn profile, he is the founder and director of Synergy Drum Corps, which is a private drum school with no affiliation to the Santa Ana Unified School District,” the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Anyone with information was asked to contact Santa Ana Police Det. Gerry Corona at gcoronasanta-ana.org, or 714-245-8343. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.

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Man alleging molestation by a priest says Diocese of Orange officials tried to intimidate him

IRVINE — A man who has alleged in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange that he was molested by a Roman Catholic priest when he was 6 years old in 1994 said Monday that Diocese officials have attempted to “intimidate” him.

Last week, a judge cleared the way for the public identification of the priest, Father Edward Poettgen, who was most recently assigned to St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim. The man suing him held a news conference Monday from the offices of his attorneys to say the Diocese has treated him “like an enemy of the church.”

The man, whose name was not released, said he reported the priest in January of 2019 so he could find some sort of healing.

“Instead of treating me with compassion Bishop (Kevin) Vann has treated me as an enemy of the church,” he said. “They served subpoenas on my mother, my girlfriend and my employers, hoping to intimidate me but I will not be intimidated. I find strength in knowing that my actions will protect other children.”

The man told reporters, “I’m not a scared little boy anymore.”

Poettgen has been placed on administrative leave, Diocese spokeswoman Tracey Kincaid said. She added the Diocese would not comment further on the pending litigation.

Attorney Vince Finaldi, who represents the plaintiff, said he deposed Poettgen last month, when the priest said he was still in active ministry at the church.

The plaintiff claims Poettgen molested him while he was enrolled as a student and in the parish of St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Stanton in 1994 and 1996.

“They’ve known about this for over a year and haven’t informed parishioners,” Finaldi said last week. “It’s crazy.”

Finaldi said Poettgen served on a board of consultants that decided to settle all its lawsuits in 2007 alleging clergy sex abuse.

“They say he doesn’t have any other allegations against him, but we’ve heard that before and proven it wrong,” Finaldi said. “We’ll have to see what the discovery turns up.”

A trial date has not yet been set.

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Line coach on San Juan Hills High School football team suspected of soliciting students for child pornography

Investigators believe an offensive line coach for a San Juan Capistrano high school football team propositioned multiple students to participate in child pornography, and sought the public’s help in identifying additional possible victims after he was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Cole Austin Cazel, 22, of San Juan Capistrano, was arrested at about 12:30 p.m. on suspicion of contacting minors for the purpose of soliciting child pornography, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said in a news release. He was held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Cazel had worked as an offensive line coach for the San Juan Hills High School football team and had regular contact with minors the past four years, the OCSD said.


Deputies arrested Cole Austin Cazel, 22, of San Juan Capistrano, Wednesday, Oct. 30, on suspicion of soliciting minors to take part in child pornography. He had worked as an offensive line coach for San Juan Hills High School, and has had regular contact with students for the past four years. (Photo courtesy of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

Deputies launched an investigation after receiving an anonymous tip suggesting he had victimized multiple students.

Authorities believe there may be other victims who have not yet been identified. Deputies asked anyone with information regarding their investigation to call 714-647-7419.

Anonymous tips can also be left with OC Crime Stoppers by dialing 855-847-6227 or visiting occrimestoppers.org.

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CHP officer on leave over claim he groped a Santa Ana woman

SANTA ANA — A Santa Ana woman claimed Wednesday she was groped by a California Highway Patrol officer who came to her apartment hours after a traffic stop involving her and her husband.

The woman, who spoke through an interpreter at a Los Angeles news conference with attorney Juan Dominguez, said she was going public with her claim to ensure no other women are victimized.

CHP officials said the unnamed officer has been placed on leave pending the completion of an internal investigation and a criminal investigation by the Santa Ana Police Department.

The woman claims she and her husband were pulled over by the officer around 5:30 p.m. April 6 on the southbound 5 Freeway near Red Hill Avenue. The officer cited her husband for being an unlicensed driver, and they were released, according to her attorney.

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About three hours later, the officer showed up at her apartment and asked to speak to her alone, Dominguez said.

“He positions his patrol car on the side of the parking lot and opens the two doors of his SUV patrol car and positions her between the two doors and … proceeds to grope her genitalia, breasts in a sexually inappropriate manner,” Dominguez said.

He said the officer stopped when a neighbor walked by, but the officer told the woman he would be back the following week.

“We hope and trust that they will do a thorough, transparent and speedy investigation,” Dominguez said.

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