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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 19th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 29 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 29

Founder of Flutes Across the World indicted on child sex charges

By Kasey Bubnash

The founder and leader of a music program that contracted for years with Santa Ynez Valley's Circle V Ranch Camp was recently indicted and charged with several sexual crimes against children.

John Zeretzke, a former Ventura-based music teacher who founded Flutes Across the World, an educational program he led for years at Circle V Ranch Camp, was arrested Sept. 13 by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office

The five-count indictment alleges that in November 2015 and continuing into May 2016, Zeretzke, 60, attempted to persuade a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him online, and allegedly sent the girl multiple sexually explicit photos of himself via Facebook. 

John Zeretzke, founder of Flutes Across the World, leads Circle V Ranch campers through a flute crafting session in August 2014. Zeretzke was arrested on child pornography charges, among others, on Sept. 13.

In February 2017, Zeretzke, allegedly persuaded another minor to produce child pornography. Later that year, the indictment claims that Zeretzke traveled to the Philippines–where he often donated musical instruments to children through Flutes Across the World–with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with other minor victims between the ages of 12 and 16. 

The indictment also alleges that Zeretzke twice received child pornography online in 2017. 

Flutes Across the World, according to Chris Sariego, director of public relations at St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles, the organization that owns and runs Circle V Ranch Camp, provided music education to campers ages 7 to 13 during one-week sessions from 2011 to 2015. 

Each camper learned to sand, shape, decorate and then play two recorder-style flutes, Sariego wrote in an email to the Sun. Campers kept one flute, and sent the other to a child in need, usually in a foreign country. 

Zeretzke typically worked directly with the campers. 

"Circle V staff have not received any official notifications or inquiries by any authorities at this time regarding Flutes Across the World activities at Circle V Ranch Camp," Circle V wrote in a statement released on Sept. 13. "There have been no complaints or concerns about [Flutes Across the World] and John Zeretzke from any campers, counselors, or parents to Circle V staff." 

Still, Sariego said Zeretzke will not be allowed back to Circle V, and he said St. Vincent de Paul has no plans to contract with the program again "at this time." 

Assistant United States Attorney Justin Rhoades, who is prosecuting Zeretzke's case, said that while none of Zeretzke's alleged crimes are related to his work or any children in Southern California, his travel to the Philippines in 2017 had multiple purposes.  

"That trip was related to one of his flute missions," Rhoades said. "So to that extent there is overlap."

Although Rhoades wouldn't say how long authorities have been investigating Zeretzke, he did say the case began with a cyber tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which was then referred to the U.S. Postal Service. A search warrant was conducted in Zeretzke's house last September, Rhoades said, just weeks before the U.S. Postal Service and California Department of Justice launched an investigation to determine whether any of the flutes delivered to schools through the program had been contaminated with semen.

It is unclear if that investigation was related to current charges against Zeretzke. 

Zeretzke was arraigned on the indictment Sept. 13 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles, and Rhoades said he was released on Sept. 17 after family and friends paid his $20,000 bail. Among other conditions, Zeretzke is on electronic monitoring, and Rhoades said his trial date is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6.

–Kasey Bubnash

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