Teen YouTube Star Steven Fernandez Charged in Los Angeles with Sexually Exploiting 12-Year-Old Girl
The 15-year-old skateboarder's manager was also arrested following weeks of investigation
Steven Fernandez, a 15-year-old pro-skateboarding YouTube sensation, has been arrested for the alleged sexual exploitation of a 12-year-old girl, PEOPLE can confirm.
Los Angeles police issued a statement Thursday regarding the teen’s arrest. It says Fernandez, who will be tried as an adult, “was the prime mover” in a conspiracy that led to the arrests of his manager and another professional skater.
“Yes, it’s unusual that we would release the name and photo of an arrested minor,” Det. Ninette Toosbuy explained in the statement. “But State law provides for such exceptions in cases where the perpetrator sexually targeted minors.”
The alleged victim first contacted investigators in mid-November, according to the statement.
The 12-year-old girl told police “Fernandez had called her over to a car on Ventura Boulevard and used his celebrity as a skater to make an acquaintance with the minor and get her into the car, which was driven by Jose Barajas, 22, Fernandez’s manager.”
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The YouTube star allegedly “promised to introduce the girl to A-list performers and appear in Fernandez’s nonexistent MTV special in return for her engaging in sexual acts with Fernandez, Barajas, and Keelan Lamar Dadd, 27, the third man charged in the case.”
Toosbuy is quoted in the release as saying “Fernandez and his buddies used his fame and brand to sexually exploit the very girls who made the men rich and famous,” stressing police are “taking exceptional measures to find additional victims because the fate of some young lives may be at stake.”
Fernandez and Barajas were arrested on Nov. 17 in a sting operation orchestrated by detectives posing as the 12-year-old girl.
The statement claims investigators “arranged via text to meet at an abandoned home for sex.” When the skater and his manager showed up, they were detained.
Dadd turned himself in to detectives with his lawyer on Dec. 3, the statement reads.
All three were booked on charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, with Barajas’ bail set at $475,000. Dadd’s bail was set at $200,000, and both men were released after posting those amounts.
Fernandez was released to his mother and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet, according to the statement.
“We want parents to look at the names and pictures of the defendants and ask their daughters if there’s been any contact,” Toosbuy said in the police statement. “The suspects tended to cruise West San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and Compton, looking for young girls to solicit.”