For the second time in less than a year, an Inland military recruiter has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in a sex act with an underage girl.
Christian Rigal Mercado, 25, of Moreno Valley, was jailed Wednesday after a security guard at the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino reported that he saw him involved with the girl inside a parked car. Mercado later posted $50,000 bail.
The 17-year-old girl was a potential U.S. Army recruit, said San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Dan Keil.
Mercado, who was booked on suspicion of oral copulation with a minor, worked as a recruiter out of the Army’s office on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. He has been suspended from recruiting duties pending an investigation, army officials said.
“We’re a values-based organization, and basically, we have no tolerance for infractions of the law,” said Nya Paul, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Southern California Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Inland region’s offices.
She said she could not comment further pending the investigation. Prosecutors will now review the case for potential charges.
The arrest follows last May’s incident involving a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter and a 13-year-old girl. Former Staff Sgt. Bryan Damone Cunningham was convicted of two felony counts of lewd acts and sodomy with a child under 14.
Authorities said that Cunningham and two of his potential recruits traveled to Hemet to have sex with the young girl. He was also accused of taking the victim to Los Angeles with plans to pimp her out, though his plea agreement dropped those related charges.
Reach Paul LaRocco at 951-368-9468 or plarocco@PE.com
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Education Industrial Complex, Military Industrial Complex, San Bernardino County, SB Military Tagged: | Army, Bryan Damone Cunningham, Christian Rigal Mercado, Dan Keil, Inland Center Mall, Nya Paul, recruiter, San Bernardino Police Department, Southern California Recruiting Battalion, USMC, youth