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Man at center of tainted flute investigation in Southern California is charged with committing lewd acts

The founder of an international music program who was accused of possibly providing flutes contaminated with semen to hundreds of Southern California students has been charged with committing lewd acts against five minors.
John Edward Zeretzke, who was already facing federal child exploitation charges , has now also been indicted in state court for committing lewd acts upon children under the age of 14, the California Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday.
Zeretzke, a 60-year-old resident of Ventura who founded Flutes Across the World, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, court records show.
According to a grand jury indictment, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court, the alleged lewd acts involving two girls are believed to have occurred in Orange County, while the suspected acts against three other girls are believed to have occurred in Los Angeles County.
Prosecutors noted that the charges against Zeretzke are “not based upon allegations that he personally had physical contact with any child.” The exact nature of the alleged acts was not clear.
“Crimes against children are despicable. Schools must represent a safe environment for our students,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a written statement. “No parent should fear for the safety and security of their child at school. We will work relentlessly to hold people who exploit our children criminally accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
An earlier federal indictment alleged that Zeretzke coerced a girl to product child pornography, attempted to entice another person to send him sexually explicit images, received child pornography over the internet, and traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with minors.
Since its founding in 2009, Flutes Across the World worked with thousands of children across the United States, including school districts in Orange and Los Angeles counties, to create pairs of decorated flutes. The children taking part in the program kept one flute, while the other was given away to children in other countries.
Authorities in 2017 began collecting some of the flutes from students after learning they may have been contaminated with semen . Among the campuses impacted by the criminal investigation were schools in Anaheim, Fullerton, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.
It isn’t clear from the indictment whether the charges Zeretzke is facing in state court are tied to any contaminated flutes. He is scheduled to return to court on May 1.
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