REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KRON) — The owner of a San Mateo County driving school appeared in court on Thursday to face accusations that he manipulated girls into creating sexually explicit images to sell online.
Prosecutors say Johnnatan Izaguirre Zelaya used his “position of authority and the powers of social media” to prey on teenaged girls who he met through social media, as well as through his driving school.
According to the indictment, Zelaya enticed and coerced teenaged girls to produce child pornography for his personal use and to sell online.
On one occasion, he threatened to leak explicit content to everyone his victim knew if she stopped creating content for him, prosecutors said. The 39-year-old Redwood City man was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month on child pornography charges.
“Zelaya groomed his victims at times by complimenting their appearance, developing sexualized friendships with them, offering to manage their explicit content online, and offering them financial rewards for the creation of explicit content,” prosecutors wrote.
The indictment alleges that Zelaya offered to manage selling the girls’ images online and bought sex toys to use in videos. The girls ranged in ages 14-17.
Zelaya allegedly provided a victim a list of the amounts of money she could earn by producing videos depending upon whether the content included nude vs. non-nude videos, videos of masturbation, or videos of “toy play.”
Zelaya is the owner of California Driving Academy. He graduated from a police academy, however, he was never hired as an officer by a police department.
Police were alerted by the DMV about an independent driving instructor not affiliated with the DMV who was believed to have been engaged in criminal activity with minors.
Zelaya was arrested on January 4 after communicating with an undercover police officer who he thought was 17 years old. Communications between the undercover officer and Zelaya included highly sexualized conversations with instructions on how to masturbate, discussions of future interactions in which he would have sexual intercourse with her, and a request to have the officer perform a photo shoot with him, according to prosecutors.
The conversations culminated with Zelaya’s arrest during a planned meet-up with the undercover agent.
Zelaya was charged with two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, one count of receipt of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.