A California music instructor who allegedly gave teenagers flutes tainted with semen has been indicted with committing lewd acts against minors, authorities announced Thursday night.
John Zeretzke, the 60-year-old founder of the Flutes Across the World who already faces federal child-exploitation charges, was indicted in Orange County Superior Court for six criminal counts of committing lewd acts against five children under the age of 14, the California Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday.
“Crimes against children are despicable. Schools must represent a safe environment for our students,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “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.”
According to the indictment, Zeretzke committed “a lewd and lascivious act upon and with the body and certain parts” of two girls in Orange County and three girls in Los Angeles County, all “under the age of 14 years with the intent of arousing, appealing to and gratifying (his) lust, passions and sexual desires.” The charges, which don’t go into detail about the exact nature of the alleged abuse, are “not based upon allegations that he personally had physical contact with any child.”
Zeretzke founded the international program in 2009, working with thousands of children across the U.S. to create and decorate a pair of flutes out of PVC pipe. At the end of the program, each kid was allowed to keep one flute, while the other was given to children in other countries, including the Philippines where the organization had a field office, according to authorities.
California officials began investigating reports that flutes distributed to children in several Orange County school districts “were tainted with semen” in 2017, a spokesperson at the attorney general’s office told The Daily Beast on Friday.
After the investigation began, all six California schools districts associated with Flutes Across the World discontinued the program.
On Sept. 13, 2017, Zeretzke was charged in a five-count federal indictment claiming the 60-year-old music director coerced a girl to “produce child pornography,” traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with multiple minors, and attempted to entice another child to send him sexually explicit images. He was released from custody on bond five days after his arrest in 2017, according to federal booking records.
“We believe he contacted these individuals over the internet,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, told The Daily Beast. He added that prosecutors do not believe he met any of his victims through the flute program.
Zeretzke, who did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, has pleaded not-guilty to the new charges, the attorney general’s office said. It is not immediately clear if he has a lawyer. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 1.