A former teacher from Orange County who was previously convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in federal prison for traveling to China to have sex with a 16-year-old youth.
Ezequiel Christopher Barragan, previously a Spanish teacher at Dana Hills High School, traveled in 2009 to China, where he coerced a boy to engage in sexual conduct and took sexually explicit photographs, which he brought back to Southern California, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
At various times, Barragan taught middle school and high school students, coached youth baseball, and was a court-appointed mentor and foster parent for abused or neglected children, prosecutors said.
Top news of the day
According to a statement written by the unidentified victim in the current case and read aloud in Los Angeles federal court, Barragan was "hunting for victims" when the two met. The then-teenager wrote that he has since suffered emotional problems that require medication and counseling.
"These issues isolate me from a normal social life," the university student wrote. "The worst part is these memories will always be part of my life."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Damaris Diaz said Barragan traveled to 37 foreign countries to have sex with countless boys, some as young as 13. A restitution amount will be determined for the victim in the sex tourism case, she said.
"There's a true predator side to Mr. Barragan -- he groomed victims, acted as a mentor, became a foster parent and molested his foster son," Diaz told the court.
The 53-year-old former Aliso Viejo resident will also serve 20 years of post-prison supervised release, which will include strict conditions on computer use and psychological counseling, and must register as a sex offender for life, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ordered.
Barragan pleaded guilty last year to two federal counts: traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place.
In September 2016, Barragan was sentenced to five years in state prison after admitting to sexually assaulting a teenage boy he met while serving as a court-appointed advocate. Such advocates are paired with children who have suffered abuse and neglect, and are meant to serve as the advocate for their interests in court. The boy was not a student at the Dana Hills campus or a player on the teams Barragan coached.
In a statement to the court Wednesday, Barragan said that he feels a "staggering sense of shame'' for his parents and the teaching profession, and insisted that his criminal activity was "in the past."
In her unsuccessful argument for a 12-year sentence, defense attorney Jill Ginstling said her client had divulged information about molestations when he was interviewed by investigators.
"He just started spilling what he's done," she said. "He couldn't stop himself -- he was walking himself into a long prison sentence."