A former school guidance counselor in Banning accused of sexually assaulting a female student several decades ago is also accused of abusing three girls in San Diego County, where the criminal matter will be heard going forward, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
Ruben Rico Franco, 64, was arrested in December following a Banning Police Department investigation that spanned nearly two years.
Franco was charged in January with four counts of forcible lewd acts on a child, three counts each of oral copulation of a minor and sexual penetration of a child, and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, also known as statutory rape.
The defendant had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing at the Banning Justice Center on Monday. But Riverside County prosecutors informed Superior Court Judge Mark Singerton that the matter was being transferred to San Diego County, where Franco is charged in a three-victim sexual abuse case awaiting disposition.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the Riverside County and San Diego County cases are being consolidated, and further proceedings will be in San Diego County Superior Court.
Franco was awaiting custody transfer Tuesday from the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, where he’s being held without bail, to the San Diego Central Jail.
Investigators allege the sexual abuse of the Banning victim began in 1995, when the woman, whose identity was not disclosed, was 10 years old, and continued until 1999.
The specific circumstances were not disclosed.
A police statement indicated that Franco made initial contact with the student at the campus, which wasn’t named, and thereafter had multiple encounters with her. He was in his 30s at the time and has since retired.
The woman, now in her 30s, approached police in February 2021 to report the alleged acts.
It was unclear why the investigation did not conclude until early December 2022, when the defendant was taken into custody.
The circumstances connected to the San Diego County case were not specified.
Franco has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.