A school bus driver for the Coachella Valley Unified School District pleaded not guilty Tuesday to molesting three girls while on the job a decade ago.
Jose Luis Moncada, 64, of Desert Hot Springs, is charged with eight counts of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 years old stemming from allegations that in 2010, he "inappropriately touched several students while conducting his duties as a school bus driver," according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
The felony complaint filed by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office on Monday lists three students, all girls, as victims.
Local news from across Southern California
Because the crimes allegedly involved multiple victims, he could face a life sentence if convicted, said district attorney's spokesman John Hall.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Ryan set bail at $1 million and scheduled a March 12 court date for a felony settlement conference at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, when bail will also be reassessed.
Moncada was arrested Friday about 5:15 a.m. "at his place of employment" in the 87000 block of Avenue 57 in Thermal, according to sheriff's officials.
The investigation into Moncada began last October when a student complained to district officials about several alleged incidents that occurred in 2010.
Moncada was a school district employee as recently as October when the student made the initial complaint, district Superintendent Maria Gandera confirmed Monday. She did not say if the defendant had been fired.
The district released a statement Monday following Moncada's arrest, confirming that a former student made the complaint in October, but that she did not identify the bus driver allegedly responsible.
"The district was unaware of any allegations before October 2019," according to the statement. "Upon receiving the report, the district immediately contacted Child Protective Services and law enforcement."
Another Coachella Valley Unified School District employee, 25-year-old Coachella resident Edward Noel Alvarado Valadez, was arrested in December on suspicion of engaging in an "inappropriate relationship" with a student.
According to sheriff's officials, Valadez pursued a female student at Coachella Valley High School "through various social media apps."
Valadez made bail following his arrest, and has not yet been charged by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.