Photo by Alexander Nguyen

A janitor at a middle school in the city of Industry is facing criminal charges for allegedly fondling more than a half-dozen girls on the campus, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant said Thursday.

Michael Anthony Barry, a 58-year-old San Gabriel Valley resident, is charged with five felony counts of committing a lewd act on a child, three misdemeanor counts of child molesting and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The alleged crimes involve eight girls ranging in age from 11 to 14, said sheriff’s Lt. Todd Deeds of the Special Victims Bureau.

“The suspect is being accused of inappropriate touching with female victims,” he said, adding that Barry “has been employed at Torch Middle School for 16 years and we believe there are other potential victims out there.”

“Mr. Barry, he would befriend the victims and be very nice to the victims, and he would do things like offer them candy and just be very kind to them, and he gained their trust as a result,” Deeds told reporters, adding that the alleged crimes occurred at “different locations throughout the campus” during school hours in the last school year.

“The school district has been very cooperative. After the first two victims came forward, the school district sent out letters to the parents asking if anything inappropriate happened with their children … It was after that initial notification to the parents that we identified more victims,” the lieutenant said, noting that investigators first learned about the allegations in May.

The sheriff’s lieutenant urged anyone with information about any other alleged victims to contact the Special Victims Bureau 24-hour tip line at (877) 710-5273.

In a statement that did not mention Barry by name, Bassett Unified School District’s interim superintendent, Debra French, said the custodian had been placed on administrative leave immediately after “complaints that he made inappropriate physical advances toward students.”

“Upon learning about the behavior, Bassett Unified immediately contacted the Department of Children and Family Services and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who conducted an investigation,” French said. “Bassett Unified has a zero-tolerance policy for acts of any kind that put our students in danger … The district will continue to offer affected students and their families counseling services and support.”

The custodian was initially arrested June 13 at his home, according to French. He was released on bond, according to jail records.

Barry — who has no prior criminal history — turned himself in July 6 after learning that criminal charges had been filed against him, Deeds said. He remains jailed in lieu of $1.5 million bail while awaiting his next court appearance in Pomona on Aug. 10, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

— City News Service

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