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


Grannies to Toys’R’Us : War is Not a Game

NEW YORK — On December 4, the Raging Grannies and the Granny Peace Brigade created a wonderful holiday peace event at the crossroads of the world, Times Square. The purpose was to send the message: No more war toys and no more war.

They met near the Recruiting Station where two New York City Police Department officers, polite but not particularly interested in the First Amendment, told them that they had to move on. Debate was futile. So, they moved to the huge Broadway Toys “R” Us where several grannies had entered minutes earlier, got on the three story high Ferris wheel in the store, and unfurled large yellow banners that read “No More War Toys — No More War.”

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.

Preschool Hype: National Security Edition

Retired officers push early childhood benefits to help national security

A bipartisan group of retired military officers says without more educational and health investments in children the country will face a growing “national security threat.”

Now, the group is pushing for significant investments in early childhood education, parenting guidance as well as mental and nutrition services.

“The safety of our country demands urgent and intelligent action,” the group says in its mission statement. “We call on all policymakers to ensure America’s national security by supporting interventions that will prepare young people for a life of military service and productive citizenship.”

Congress is considering legislation for a new initiative called the “Early Learning Challenge Fund” designed to help states improve their early education programs and expand access to include more at-risk kids. The House already passed its version of the bill, which would fund $1 billion annually for eight years in competitive grants to states. The Senate has yet to vote on that bill.

University of Phoenix’s Curious Take on the Law

The University of Phoenix has 190 campuses operating in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The school says it has 420,000 students and tens of thousands of employees at its schools of nursing, business and education, among others.

But it does not have a law school. Maybe it should.

In an official response (PDF) to our report on enrollment abuses at Phoenix, the university’s parent company — Apollo Group Inc. — made a legal mistake so basic that, when told about it, a law professor we consulted was momentarily at a loss for words.

In a joint investigation with Marketplace, we found a dozen current and former students, as well as two former enrollment officers, who said that Phoenix uses misleading tactics to coax people into signing up for school and, in many cases, for large government loans. Phoenix has become the single largest recipient of federal student aid, with more than $3 billion from government loan programs last year.

Continue reading

Ex-recruiter gets 3 years on child sex charges

DEADWOOD, S.D. — A former Army recruiter has been sentenced to three years in prison for rape and possession of child pornography stemming from a relationship with a Lead-Deadwood High School student he met online.

Authorities said Juan Otero of Chicago was arrested Feb. 12 at a hotel room after dropping the girl off at her school. He allegedly told police he had been at the school to enlist potential recruits.

The 22-year-old Otero pleaded guilty in August to three counts of rape and two counts of possession of child pornography. Prosecutors dropped four other rape counts and five counts of child pornography possession in exchange for the plea.

A grand jury indictment said the rapes happened in August 2008 and in February 2009. The child pornography charges relate to images from Otero’s computer of him and the girl.

Community Groups vs. Military Recruiters

Military recruiters today have unprecedented access to students and other young people, particularly in poor neighborhoods. There are generally more Army recruiters at high schools than there are college counselors, says Elmer Roldan, fundraising director at Community Coalition of South Central Los Angeles, and there is “a more aggressive strategy to militarize them than to prepare them for college.” He notes that military recruiters target the best and brightest students, particularly young women.

So when high school senior Stephanie Hoang started working with the Oakland, California–based organization BAY-Peace, educating her peers about the potential risks of joining the military and helping to build alternative education and employment opportunities, her truth-in-recruitment work was more than just an internship: “It’s my peers being affected,” she says. “[Recruiters] are looking at me and thinking that I’m the person they want in the military.”

Continue reading