A former music teacher who contracted with a number of school districts in Southern California pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal child pornography charge.
John Edward Zeretzke, 61, of Ventura, pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography.
He previously pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court to six state counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts with minors under the age of 14 years old.
John Zeretzke (Photo: Z World Music)
According to his plea agreement in the federal case, from December 2016 to February 2017, Zeretzke used a computer and the internet to communicate with a female minor and coerced her into producing child pornography. The victim did not live in California at the time.
Zeretzke occasionally had contracts in Santa Barbara through his “Flutes Across the World” program. The program came under investigation in 2016 by state and federal officials after allegations of flutes tainted with semen were being distributed to children.
Zeretzke was arrested in 2018 by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office on federal charges of coercing an underage girl to produce child pornography, attempting to entice another victim to send him sexually explicit images, traveling to the Philippines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with other minor victims, and twice receiving child pornography over the internet. The full indictment is available here, provided by KEYT News.
Under the “Flutes Across the World” program, Zeretzke would teach children how to make two flutes from PVC pipe. The children would make one for themselves and make another to be donated to another child in need, including the Philippines. After allegations of the flutes being contaminated with semen, schools quickly dropped the program and warned parents.
Zeretzke did come into contact with kids in the Santa Ynez Valley from Goleta and Santa Maria. He was featured on KEYT NewsChannel 3 in August 2014 as part of the “Flutes Across the World” project event at Circle V Ranch Camp in the Santa Ynez Valley.
A representative from Circle V Ranch Camp released the following statement in 2018 following Zeretzke’s arrest:
“Circle V staff have not received any official notifications or inquiries by any authorities at this time regarding Flutes Across the World activities at Circle V Ranch Camp. There have been no complaints or concerns about FAW and John Zeretzke from any campers, counselors or parents to Circle V staff. Camp staff will continue to monitor this situation very closely and apprise you if anything changes as soon as possible.”
Circle V Ranch Camp also confirmed they independently contracted with “Flutes Across the World” to provide music education to campers ages 7-13 during specific one-week sessions in July 2011, July 2012, July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015.
United States District Judge Fernando M. Olguin has scheduled a December 3 sentencing hearing, at which time Zeretzke will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Zeretzke has been sentenced to 18 years in state prison and federal prosecutors are recommending an 18-year federal prison sentence that will run concurrently with his state prison sentence.
This case is a part of Project Safe Childhood, the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to combat the plague of child exploitation crimes.
September 14, 2018: Ventura Music Teacher Indicted on Multiple Child Sex Crimes
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .