Tracey Stephan Fulford. Photo via Santa Ana Police Department

A longtime coach in the Santa Ana Unified School District was behind bars Monday on suspicion of molesting a female student-athlete at Segerstrom High School, and police said there may be additional victims.

Tracey Stephan Fulford, 52, of Santa Ana was booked on suspicion of child molestation, lewd conduct and distributing harmful manner to a child, with bail set at $100,000.

The alleged victim, now 19, claimed that she became involved in an inappropriate relationship with her basketball coach when she was 16.

She alleged that during private basketball lessons, she “willingly followed Fulford into a storage room and other locations in the school gymnasium and they would engage in inappropriate sexual acts,” according to a Santa Ana police statement.

The relationship continued past her 18th birthday, at which point they allegedly engaged in consensual sex away from the school, police said.

The young woman, whose name was withheld, went to the Santa Ana Police Department on Saturday night, accompanied by her parents. She felt that coaches she met with on Friday were discouraging her from disclosing her alleged sexual relationship with Fulford, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

“Obviously, we’re looking into what happened at the school,” Bertagna said. “Were there any violations of mandated reporting on their part? That’s a separate investigation.”

Santa Ana Unified School District issued a statement saying it was notified of Fulford’s Sunday arrest. School officials said the allegations “are being taken seriously and are in direct conflict of the district’s zero- tolerance policy relating to staff misconduct, in which all district employees are held at the highest ethical standards. This includes reporting any suspicious activity involving abuse or neglect of a child directly to authorities, as mandated by law.”

The district is “committed to providing a safe and secure environment” for all of its students, the SAUSD statement said. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will work closely with the Santa Ana Police Department on this investigation.”

The district’s spokeswoman, Deidra Powell, said the “walk-on” coach was placed on unpaid leave.

Fulford has been a basketball and track & field coach in the SAUSD for 37 years. He also provides “personal training” for students, “and that’s how this got started,” Bertagna said. “He gained the family’s trust, so for a lot of the personal lessons he would pick her up at the house and take her to different locations.”

Police have “multiple cell phones” booked into evidence that allegedly contain sexually explicit messages between the two, Bertagna said.

Anyone with information about Fulford was asked to contact detectives at (714) 245-8378 or send an email to emajors@santa-ana.org. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at (855) TIP-OCCS.

— City News Service

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