Army recruiter arrested in sex case

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.

Continue reading

Ex-recruiter sentenced to prison for sex crimes

HEMET, Calif. — A former Marine Corps recruiter has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Southern California’s Riverside County after pleading guilty to child sex charges.

Prosecutors say former Staff Sgt. Bryan Damone Cunningham pleaded guilty Friday to felony charges of committing lewd acts and sodomy with a child under 14.

The girl told police she met Cunningham online and had sex with him and two other men. She also told police Cunningham wanted her to work as a prostitute and had tried to take her to Los Angeles County against her will.

Cunningham could have faced life in prison if convicted of a kidnapping for rape charge, in addition to an attempted pimping charge and two other felonies that the district attorney’s office agreed to dismiss.

Latest recruiter sex case prompts Corps review

A Marine recruiter in Utah is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl, becoming the fourth in 13 months to face similar charges.

The cases have prompted the Corps to review its screening process for recruiters and to increase the amount of ethics training at Recruiters School, said Maj. Chris Devine, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

Staff Sgt. Trevor Hooper, 26, was arraigned Tuesday in Salt Lake City, said Alicia Cook, a spokeswoman with the Salt Lake County Prosecutor’s Office. He faces one count of first-degree rape, one count of forcible sodomy and 12 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to charging documents. He has been suspended from recruiting duty and will not serve in that capacity again, said Maj. Christopher Logan, a spokesman for the Corps’ Western recruiting region.

Police began investigating Hooper, who worked at the recruiting substation in East Salt Lake City, in April after the girl’s father found a digital memory card containing images of her having sex, said Lt. Don Hutson, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities say Hooper and the girl met at a high school where he was recruiting. He befriended her, and they eventually decided to rent a hotel room, where the two allegedly had sex, police said.

Initially, police charged Hooper with four counts of sexual activity with a minor and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor. After prosecutors reviewed the evidence, however, they filed more serious charges.

Continue reading

Police: Marine recruiter planned to pimp Hemet 14-year-old girl

A 14-year-old Hemet girl was the apparent victim of a Marine Corps recruiter’s plot to turn her into a hooker in Los Angeles, according to Hemet police.

The recruiter, Staff Sgt. Bryan Damone Cunningham, is accused of driving two prospective Marine recruits to Hemet to have sex with the girl, then driving all three to Los Angeles — or starting to.

The trip was interrupted in Orange, where Cunningham was stopped by police for driving erratically.

After police asked the girl what she was doing with the three older men and she described the circumstances, Cunningham and the other two passengers, Homer Michael Daskalakis, 19, of Long Beach and Justin Willard, 18, of Los Angeles, were arrested.

Police said the three had sex with the girl while in Hemet and Cunningham intended to pimp her out in Los Angeles.

Neither Daskalakis nor Willard was charged in connection with the pimp plot.

Cunningham worked at a recruiting substation in Long Beach.

See also: Marine recruiter, two others, charged with rape of Hemet girl

Marine recruiter, two others, charged with rape of Hemet girl

A Marine recruiter and two others were arrested last month for allegedly having sexual relations with a 14-year-old Hemet girl, authorities said.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Damone Cunningham, 33, of San Pedro, was arrested May 23 by the Hemet Police Department, according to a news release from the 12th Marine Corps District in San Diego and Hemet police Cpl. Eddie Pust.

Pust didn’t have additional details about the alleged sexual relations, and detectives handling the case couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

Cunningham, who was assigned to a recruiting substation in Long Beach, has been charged with seven felonies, including kidnapping to commit robbery/rape, attempted pimping and sodomy, according to court records.

He is being held at the Southwest Detention Center in French Valley, with bail set at $1 million, according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Department records.

See his case file here.

Continue reading