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Day-care center owner accused of molestation had been investigated twice before

Police looked into allegations in 2008 and 2009 that Enrique Ramos, who runs a Boyle Heights facility, had abused two children.

February 27, 2013|By Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times

A man charged this week with molesting three children at his Boyle Heights day-care center had been investigated twice before — but never arrested — in connection with similar allegations several years ago, according to police officials and state records.

The California Department of Social Services, which licenses day-care centers, was also aware of a previous allegation, but allowed Cano & Ramos Family Child Care to continue to operate after agency investigators concluded the accusation was not corroborated, records show.

Los Angeles police said the first allegation was made in 2008, when a mother reported that her 5-year-old daughter had been sexually abused.

But LAPD Det. Steven Juarez said the child's mother was homeless and disappeared before they could investigate.

"She was moving from shelter to shelter," he said.

In 2009, police investigated a second allegation that Enrique Ramos had fondled a child.

In that case, it was a "one-on-one allegation," Juarez said. Jane Robison, an L.A. County district attorney's spokeswoman, said the office declined to file charges because of insufficient evidence.

On Feb. 5, a 5-year-old girl attending the day-care center for the first time came home and told her mother that she didn't want to go back, police said. The child said Ramos had touched her vagina, Juarez said.

The new allegation spurred police to take a closer look at the previous cases. They were able to track down the mother in the 2008 case and gathered enough evidence to arrest Ramos last week on suspicion of molesting three children.

Ramos, 45, was charged Monday with three felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child. He made a brief appearance Monday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom and entered a not guilty plea. He remains in county jail in lieu of $1.3-million bail.

On Tuesday, a woman who answered the phone at the day-care center and identified herself as co-owner Adriana Cano declined to comment.

After the arrest, the California Department of Social Services temporarily suspended the center's operating license, citing "an immediate health and safety risk to children." At least 14 children were at the center when Ramos was arrested.

In its decision to suspend the license, the department cited the three molestation allegations. But it also noted that Ramos and Cano had failed to report the 2009 allegation.

In April 2010, state social services officials met with Ramos and Cano after police notified them of the allegation.

But Claudia Guangorena, a state licensing evaluator, wrote in a report, "At this time, there is insufficient corroborating statements and/or physical evidence to substantiate this case."

Michael Weston, a spokesman for the department of social services, said the agency operates on a standard of preponderance of evidence.

"Here we were not saying it did not happen," Weston said. "We're saying we don't have information this happened or did not happen."

The state was unaware of the 2008 allegation until recently, Weston said.

The day-care center was also required to post a notice that it had failed to report allegations of misconduct. It is unclear whether it did, Weston said.

A 2012 evaluation of the day-care center found no issues. On Friday, a day after Ramos' arrest, state evaluators returned to the facility and issued three citations for failure to have basic information, including immunization records and emergency contact information for each child.

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