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Crime

Pair must stand trial on charges of molesting an 18-month-old boy

Michael James Flaherty and Cynthia Fuentes (Courtesy of Desert Hot Springs PD)
Michael James Flaherty and Cynthia Fuentes (Courtesy of Desert Hot Springs PD)

A man and woman accused of molesting the man's 18-month- old son and filming it in Desert Hot Springs must stand trial on several felony charges, a judge ruled today.

Michael James Flaherty, 34, of Desert Hot Springs and Cynthia Fuentes, 24, of Coachella were arrested in August 2017.

Following a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Hawkins found there was sufficient evidence for both defendants to proceed to trial.

Wells scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Feb. 2.

Both defendants remain behind bars in lieu of $1.5 million bail. Flaherty and Fuentes are both charged with committing sex acts with a child under 10 years old, using a minor for obscene matter, possession of child pornography and wilful child cruelty, among other felony charges.

Desert Hot Springs police Detective Christopher Tooth testified Wednesday that a woman who Flaherty met over a dating app initially reported the alleged abuse to Child Protective Services and then to police.

She told detectives that Flaherty sought to convince her to assist him in molesting his son, and allegedly provided photographs and videos purporting to show several acts of molestation during several of their conversations. The investigation eventually expanded to include Fuentes, who allegedly admitted to participating in the abuse in text messages.

According to Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse, both Flaherty and Fuentes were captured on camera engaging in sex acts with the child.

When asked by the woman whether he was scared his son might remember the abuse, Flaherty allegedly said he wasn't, citing his belief that children only begin remembering events once they reach 3 years old.

At the time of his arrest in the Desert Hot Springs case, Flaherty was also the subject of a child pornography investigation that began in Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which forwarded the case to investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Lofthouse.

Federal investigators eventually teamed up with Desert Hot Springs police in the case.

Flaherty has prior felony convictions for burglary and vehicle theft. He also has an unresolved felony forcible rape case.

Fuentes has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County, court records show.

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City News Service

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