Flutes Across The World Founder John Zeretzke expected to plead guilty
A federal judge has set a new plea hearing date for a former traveling music teacher accused of state and federal child abuse charges.
On Feb. 5, John Zeretzke, of Ventura, agreed to plead guilty to one federal charge of production of child pornography and six state charges of lewd acts with a minor under 14. The terms of the agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office require Mr. Zeretzke to register as a sex offender. He faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison with lifetime supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades said Mr. Zeretzke has not yet appeared in court to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. He can still withdraw his plea, but if he does prosecutors can pursue charges that were dismissed or not filed.
Judge Fernando Olguin scheduled Mr. Zeretzke to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles in March to change his plea.
On March 18, both sides agreed to continue the hearing to June 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given the grave public-health concerns discussed… and given the facts set forth in the parties’ stipulation (which the Court incorporates here), the ends of justice served by the continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendant in a speedy trial,” Judge Olguin wrote.
On May 5, Judge Olguin pushed Mr. Zeretzke’s hearing date back to Oct. 20.
In the federal case, Mr. Zeretzke admitted that between December 2016 and February 2017 he pursued a “romantic relationship,” with a girl in the Philippines over email.
According to the charging documents, Mr. Zeretzke convinced the girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct “for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct” and transmitted that content through a “means and facility” of interstate and foreign commerce.
In the plea, Mr. Zeretzke admitted that he sent money to the girl through one of her relatives in the Philippines and asked her to send him photographs of her genitalia.
On Feb. 8, 2017, Mr. Zeretzke took part in a video chat with the girl. During the call Mr. Zeretzke “persuaded and coerced” the victim to display close-up images of her genitalia.
“Defendant, using his computer, created still images of this content, which he knowingly and intentionally saved to his digital devices,” the plea agreement read.
The victim was under 16 at the time of the call.
According to court records, Mr. Zeretzke is also waiting for a hearing to enter his state court plea. He is scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference on July 8 in Orange County Superior Court.
According to a statement released by the state Attorney General’s Office, the alleged abuse in the state case occurred between Jan. 1, 2017 and April 30, 2017.
According to a report from the Orange County Register, a grand jury transcript revealed Mr. Zeretzke allegedly recorded himself ejaculating into flutes that he gave to five elementary school students in Costa Mesa and Castaic.
In 2009, Mr. Zeretzke founded Flutes Across The World, a charitable organization that taught students to make flutes out of PVC pipes.
In 2016, he took the program to the Circle V Ranch camp, but none of the charges involved children from Santa Barbara.email: firstname.lastname@example.org