Screenshot from 2012 promotional video for SAC’s welding program.
A welding professor who resigned in 2018 was arrested and charged Tuesday with committing lewd acts on a former student, the second such sexual assault on a Middle College High School teen to be reported on SAC’s campus since last summer.
George Moreno, who resigned from the district after 11 years as lead faculty for the school’s distinguished welding program, was charged with four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a 15-year-old. A second student of Moreno’s also alleged assault, but charges were not filed due to insufficient evidence, officials said. Police believe there may be more victims.
Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department said Moreno was charged for multiple incidents that took place over a three-year period starting in 2015. The victim did not state whether the abuse stopped before or as a result of Moreno’s resignation.
Police were first notified of the incidents in July 2019, however Moreno continued to work in close proximity to children, teaching welding at Alessandro High School in Hemet until his arrest this week on campus there. He was released on $50,000 bail and faces a maximum of five years if convicted.
College officials said they had no knowledge of Moreno’s acts before they were first reported to police last year.
“College and district officials were notified by the Santa Ana Police Department of the arrest of former faculty member George Moreno on Tuesday, Jan. 7, and we are fully cooperating with our law enforcement partners at the Santa Ana Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” Public Information Officer Brin Wall said.
Last semester, SAC student Kenji Kina, 20, was booked on multiple sexual assault charges stemming from a Valentine’s Day 2019 interaction with another Middle College High School student. Kina admitted to “engaging in sex acts” with the unidentified 14-year-old victim, who he was aware was 14, Bertagna said.
That incident was also first reported to Santa Ana Police Department in July 2019. The district’s 2019 annual crime report shows no reported instances of sexual assault on or around the Santa Ana College campus in the previous three years.
MCHS is a Santa Ana Unified School District campus located on the southwest corner of SAC’s main campus. Students at the high school are dual-enrolled at SAC and take online and in-person classes.
Although the college has armed officers on campus at all times and recently added additional blue security phones, there are no specific measures in place to protect Middle College Students while at SAC.
The nonprofit accountability advocacy group Association for Student Conduct Administration recently conducted research into sexual assault on college campuses and found that current “legislation does not adequately address dual enrollment programs” such as that of Middle College High.
Moreno spent two decades as a professional air conditioning and refrigeration technician before he earned his teaching credential and was hired by SAC in 2007. By 2010, the program had received over $300,000 in public and private grants and earned prestigious technical accreditations.
An undated article by industry partner Lincoln Electric noted that at the time, SAC’s welding program had a 100% graduation and job placement rate. It also cites Moreno’s recruiting efforts at local high schools, where he encouraged female students to enroll in the college’s welding program and “even assist him with the demonstrations.”
“Professor Moreno has a tremendous compassion for his students and their success,” Bart Hoffman, then the Dean of Human Services & Technology Division, was quoted as saying at the time. “His vision and goals have driven him to develop one of the best welding programs in the state.”
A 2010 el Don article on the program reported that half of Moreno’s students were female, while industry-wide, women make up only 5% of the workforce. At that time, the welding program had a one-year waitlist.
Anyone with information regarding Moreno is encouraged to contact SAPD Detective Gerry Corona at (714) 245-8343 or [email protected]