Swimming pool underwater
Underwater view of a pool. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A swimming coach employed by the city of Commerce pleaded not guilty Thursday to sex-related charges involving a 7-year-old girl at an aquatic center.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Hanasono ordered Steven Matthew Garcia, 27, to be held in lieu of $600,000 bail in a case charging him with six counts of committing a lewd act on a child.

Garcia allegedly fondled the girl on several occasions in an employee lounge at the aquatic center and ordered her not to tell anyone, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes happened between October and this month.

“The type of conduct as alleged in this matter is reprehensible,” said City Administrator Jorge Rifa.

He said the city “took action immediately that led to the arrest of Garcia” by sheriff’s investigators. “This alleged conduct is not representative of the caliber and professionalism of Commerce employees who continue to provide exceptional public service every day.”

Garcia is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Feb. 1, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

He could face up to 14 years in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Anyone with information on the case, or who may be a possible victim of the suspect, was urged to call the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau toll-free tip line at (877) 710-5273, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

—City News Service

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