VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - John Zeretzke, operator of Flutes Across the World and a former music teacher from Ventura County, has pleaded guilty to six counts linked to lewd acts against children and sentenced to 18 years in state prison.
The announcement was made Wednesday by Attorney General Xavier Becerra in Sacramento.
“There is no place in our society for crimes against children,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior in our schools or anywhere in our state. Our students deserve to be able to learn in a safe environment and we’ll continue to use the full authority of the law to prosecute anyone who exploits children.”
The NewsChannel team first reported on Zeretzke back in 2014 when he taught a group of campers in the Santa Ynez Valley how to make recorder-style folk flutes. Each camper made two; they got to keep one, the other was to give to a child in the Philippines that Zeretzke said he would personally deliver through the Flutes Across the World project.
Fast-forward to 2018, NewsChannel reported on "disturbing charges" filed in Los Angeles against Zeretzke, then 60 years old, connected to child pornography and other crimes.
Details revealed accusations of coercing an underage girl to produce child pornography. Zeretzke was accused of enticing another minor to send (mail) sexually explicit images.
At the time, authorities said none of the victims were located in Southern California.
The Flutes Across the World project became mired in scandal amid claims that the flutes were potentially contaminated with bodily fluids.
Zeretzke was indicted last year following an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles Co. Sheriff's Department, in coordination with the Attorney General's Office.
The Ventura County resident taught music lessons in schools and other organizations throughout California, including Santa Barbara County. His conviction was based on a three-month span of crimes targeting children under the age of 14 back in 2017.
In 2019, six new state charges of committing lewd acts against minors in Los Angeles and Orange Counties were filed against Zeretzke.
Zeretzke still faces an outstanding five-count federal indictment - it is unclear if those are linked to the 2019 charges - which include allegations that the defendant attempted to entice a child to send him sexually explicit images. Federal investigators also allege that Zeretzke traveled to the Philippines with the intent to engage in sexual acts with children.