MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) - A middle school employee was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct Thursday for allegedly having oral sex with a girl starting when she was 12 years old.
Thomas Lopez worked for about 10 years at Muskegon's Steele Middle School as a "student specialist." District Superintendent Jon Felske said that position deals with student discipline.
Lopez was arrested Tuesday, nearly a decade after the abuse is alleged to have happened.
According to Muskegon senior assistant prosecuting attorney D.J. Hilson, the victim said the abuse allegedly started in 2004, when she was 12 years old, and went until the summer of 2006.
Hilson didn't immediately know how many times the abuse is alleged to have happened, but said each incident took place in the middle school where Lopez worked and the victim was a student.
"It's unfortunate that when parents send their kids to school, they're sending them to what they believe to be a safe place, that their kids are being protected and watched out for by the teachers that are assigned to do that," said Hilson. "In this particular case, this particular teacher has taken advantage of that safety."
Hilson said the accusations surfaced when the alleged victim was apparently talking to a friend about their dating histories. When she shared what happened with her friend, the friend told her she needed to contact police.
Lopez is charged with one charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for what Hilson describes as "oral penetration" and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for "sexual touching."
First-degree CSC carries a maximum of life in prison and second-degree has a maximum of 15 years behind bars.
This is the second investigation into Lopez for sexual misconduct.
24 Hour News 8 has learned that there were similar allegations made against Lopez around the same time period for alleged misconduct with a different female student.
The Muskegon Police Department and the school district investigated those claims, but Lopez was never charged and kept his job.
Prosecutors said they plan to try to reopen that first case, saying it was closed without their office ever seeing it.
Lopez has a relationship with a female Muskegon Police Department officer, so in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the Michigan State Police is the agency investigating the case.
Prosecutors did not know if that relationship had been going on during the other investigation into Lopez's potential misconduct. There are no allegations against that female officer.
Lopez is scheduled to be in court later this month.
Anyone with more information is asked to contact the MSP Rockford Post at 616.866.4411.
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