Watch CBS News

Riverside Unified To Pay $6.2M To Settle Suit Alleging It Covered Up Child Molestation By Teacher's Aide

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — The Riverside Unified School District will pay $6.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the families of three girls who were allegedly molested by a teacher's aide, claiming that the district attempted to destroy or doctor records in order to cover up complaints about the suspect.

Attorneys for the alleged victims announced Monday that they had reached a settlement regarding the purported actions of 26-year-old Fernando Figueroa, who worked as a technology aide in after school programs at Liberty Elementary School and at a Boys & Girls Club in the city of Redlands.

Riverside Unified To Pay $6.2M To Settle Child Molestation Suit Against Teacher's Aide
Fernando Figueroa, 26, following his arrest in February 2017 on charges of molesting students while working as a teacher's aide at Liberty Elementary School in Riverside, Calif. Dec. 4, 2018. (Riverside Police Department)

The lawsuit alleges Figueroa molested the girls when they were 9 and 10 years old.

Figueroa was arrested in February 2017 after Riverside police conducted an investigation into a sexual assault allegation made by a Liberty Elementary student and learned that Figueroa may have more victims.

Figueroa is currently accused of molesting at least 11 students.

In October, a Riverside County grand jury indicted Figueroa on 25 felony counts, including charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 and oral copulation with a child under the age of 10.

The crimes occurred between August 2014 and February 2017, according to prosecutors.

On Nov. 30, Figueroa pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a statement, the attorneys for the plaintiffs allege they uncovered evidence that, after the lawsuit was filed, there was an effort by RUSD employees to conceal or destroy evidence proving that students had complained about Figueroa groping them, without any known disciplinary action.

"In a sworn deposition, school psychologist Sheila Eiden-Assumma testified that she had destroyed all of her notes containing statements of children alleging abuse by Figueroa, despite an ongoing police investigation and civil litigation," according to a joint statement by attorneys Saul Wolf and Thomas Moore.

An employee disclosed that she and the Liberty Elementary principal had attempted to doctor records to reflect that Figueroa had been supervised at all times while with the children, when, in fact, he was not, attorneys said.

"In another deposition, RUSD employee Tuesday Rammuni disclosed a scheme by herself and Liberty Elementary Principal Esther Garcia to create records reflecting that Figueroa was supervised as required. In truth, despite being a non-credentialed staff member, Figueroa was illegally left alone with students for at least two hours a day", according to attorneys.

They also allege that RUSD hired Figueroa despite having a juvenile record for sexual misconduct.

RUSD did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the settlement.

Meanwhile, P.T. McEwen, chief executive officer for the Boys & Girl's Club of Greater Redlands-Riverside, told City News Service that Figueroa had worked there as a "youth development professional" for three years at the time of his arrest. He worked "directly with kids."

McEwen said Figueroa underwent a background check prior to being hired and had no adult criminal record.

He's being held on $3 million bail. If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. His next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 28.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.