Berkeley Firefighter Held for Child Porn to Face Molestation Charges

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Date: 2006-02-10

Berkeley Firefighter Held for Child Porn to Face Molestation Charges

Friday February 10, 2006
By: Richard Brenneman

Nevada County Sheriff’s investigators are seeking child molestation charges against a Berkeley firefighter already jailed on charges of possession of child pornography in his locker and a city-owned computer.

Luis Ponce, 47, had been arrested at his Grass Valley home on Jan. 26 on charges stemming from a Berkeley Police kiddie porn investigation.

“We have evidence that he has molested more than one child in his home” in Nevada County, said Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Smith Thursday afternoon.

Smith said his office had just presented the Nevada County District Attorney’s office with a request “asking that several (molestation) counts be filed,” as well as bail in excess of $1 million.

“We also submitted evidence that charges of possession of pornography would be in order,” Smith said.

Ponce is now being held at the Alameda County Jail in Santa Rita on $1 million bail on 57 charges of possession of child pornography, after a Berkeley Police investigation turned up more than 30,000 images on his computer and in an unlocked city locker.

His locker also contained dozens of pairs of girls’ underwear, reported Alameda County prosecutor John Creighton.

Ponce, who is married, cared for foster children in his Nevada County home, said Smith. It was there that the alleged molestations occurred.

Victims were of both sexes, and none had reached the age of puberty, Smith said, adding that investigators had been able to identify some of the victims.

None of the identified victims comes from the Berkeley area, he said.

“This is the first case of its kind we have had,” Smith said. The officer also said that Ponce recorded instances of his molestation.

Nevada County investigators also seized a computer from Ponce’s home when they acted on a warrant obtained by Berkeley officers. That computer is currently in the custody of Berkeley police.

Berkeley officers were alerted to the case after another fire department employee discovered evidence of child pornography on a department computer.

A subsequent investigation led by Detective Angela Hawk was able to link Ponce, a 17-year veteran of the department, to the images. The search and arrest followed.

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