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Child Exploitation

Fresno-area band instructor arrested on state child pornography charges

Steven Christopher Montes

FRESNO, Calif. — Authorities are seeking the public’s help to identify possible additional juvenile victims following the arrest of a Riverdale High School band instructor on state child pornography charges.

Steven Christopher Montes, 25, of Visalia, was taken into custody Friday by investigators from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Montes is charged with multiple counts of producing and possessing child pornography. He was booked initially into the Fresno County Jail, but is currently free on bond.

The probe targeting Montes began Aug. 8 after Riverdale High School administrators alerted the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office that a teacher had allegedly taken video of unsuspecting students while they changed clothes in a school classroom. A female student discovered the recording device when she was asked to change into various band outfits at Montes’ direction. The student notified school administrators, who took immediate action.

Subsequently, investigators seized several computers from the school and executed a search warrant at the Visalia residence where Montes had been living. Additionally, authorities recovered other computers and media devices from various locations. Detectives believe there could be additional victims from both the Riverdale area and Visalia, where Montes also worked as a band teacher. Anyone with information is asked to contact Fresno County Sheriff’s Detective David Rippe at 559-487-6027 or Crime Stoppers at 559-498-STOP (7867).

The ongoing investigation is being coordinated by the Central California Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, including HSI, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and the Visalia Police Department.

Montes has served as a teacher and band director at Riverdale High School and Riverdale Elementary School since the start of the 2013 school year. Prior to that, he was a teacher at Divisadero Middle School in Visalia.

HSI’s participation in the probe is part of Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.