ELKHART — An Elkhart man is accused of touching an underage girl inappropriately and taking explicit photos of her.
Cameron Pantoja, 19, is charged with two counts of child exploitation, a Level 5 felony, and two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, a Level 6 felony, in a warrant issued Tuesday.
Charges were filed following an investigation into a disclosure a teenage girl made in early October.
Pantoja’s bond is set at $16,000 in the warrant.
According to court documents:
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation after receiving a report of child molesting on Oct. 7. The alleged victim, who is under age 16, had named Pantoja in a disclosure she made to her mother.
During a forensic interview at Child and Parent Services, the girl described the inappropriate touching and other actions that Pantoja had started doing about a year earlier, which escalated over time. She said she was scared and frozen during the incidents, and that she would try to push away but he was “so much stronger than her.”
She said the last incident was about two weeks ago.
The girl also described photos of her that Pantoja took with his phone. She said she lied on his behalf when his girlfriend found the photos because she didn’t want him to get in trouble.
A detective with the sheriff’s department questioned Pantoja’s girlfriend. She said she confronted him about the photos but he denied having taken them.
She said she took photos of them with her own phone. Officers later found those photos when executing a search warrant on Pantoja’s phone.
During an interview with the detective, Pantoja initially denied taking the photos of the victim and suggested she took them herself or that the brother of a friend of hers did. Pantoja said he wasn’t trying to throw the victim under the bus, but just “didn’t want to be perceived as a perv or something.”
He eventually broke down in tears during the interview and admitted to some of the allegations, including the inappropriate touching and taking the photos. He also admitted that he asked the victim to lie for him, and remarked that she “probably thought I was a monster.”