Aug 9, 2021
A Mesa, Arizona, private school principal is currently in custody following over a dozen felony charges related to sexually abusing three male students.
Victor Ellis Zamora, 40, was arrested by Chandler Police (AZ) on July 22 after a month-long investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Zamora allegedly admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old, indicating he wished to recruit the young boy as a student at Legacy Academy International, the school where he served as principal and teacher. Court documents also indicate that Zamora admitted to engaging in sexual acts with two other minor boys over the course of two years.
Investigators said Zamora sexually abused the 16-year-old victim in April 2019, with one incident allegedly occurring inside the principal’s minivan at a Chandler, Arizona, parking lot.
On numerous other occasions, court documents indicate that Zamora would pick the victim up from his home in Chandler and take him to dinner. Afterward, they would head to Zamora’s private office in Mesa where the abuse would allegedly take place.
The 16-year-old victim’s siblings reportedly attended Legacy Academy where Zamora was employed.
Court documents also reference text messages between Zamora and the victim which were obtained by law enforcement officials. In a text from September 2019, the victim confronted Zamora about the sexual abuse, indicating he planned to press charges. Zamora responded with an apology, saying he didn’t mean to harm the young boy.
In a July 19 recorded conversation, officials say Zamora admitted to engaging in sexual acts with the 16-year-old boy. He was arrested three days after the recording.
During his post-Miranda interview, Zamora allegedly admitted to the additional crimes, including sexually abusing two other male students at Legacy Academy. Investigators indicated that those assaults occurred on school grounds, Zamora’s personal office, and a parking lot in Chandler, Arizona.
Zamora was arrested at his Mesa home on July 22. He was booked at the Lower Buckeye Jail on 15 counts of sexual conduct with a minor (a class 2 felony), and is currently being held on a $1 million bond.
Court paperwork indicates that Zamora is in the country illegally, his Class B2 visa having expired in 2019. Accordingly, police believe Zamora is a flight risk.
Sergeant Jason McClimans of the Chandler Police Department told the East Valley Tribune, “Zamora was a teacher and principal at the school and therefore in a position of trust. Zamora was also active as a youth leader in various religious communities in the East Valley.”
Given Zamora’s consistent access to young people over multiple years, police officers from departments in Chandler, Mesa, and Gilbert, are currently working to locate additional survivors in each jurisdiction.
Anyone with information on Zamora is urged to contact the Chandler Police Department at 480-782-4130, the Mesa Police Department at 480-644-2211, or the Gilbert Police Department at 480-503-6500.
Teacher-Student Sexual Abuse and Victim Grooming
School sexual abuse is on the rise, with a recent study issued by the Education Department confirming that reports of sexual violence in schools rose more than 50% between the 2015-2016 school year and the 2017-2018 school year. Additionally, in 2015, 3.5 million students in 8th-11th grade reported sexual contact with an adult.
As we’ve noted in past blogs, parents are rightfully alarmed at these statistics, with many contacting our offices and issuing questions related to both improving child safety and prevention. As a result, we put together an informative guide related to sexual grooming.
Grooming is often a factor in teacher and coach sexual abuse cases, and likely played a role with Victor Zamora’s victims given his position of authority as a principal/teacher.
As Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) members – Sam Dordulian and Moses Castillo – have indicated in past interviews, parents are urged to exercise vigilance at all times, never letting their guard down regardless of a person’s professional position or social status.
“It’s important for parents to realize that the majority of sexual predators aren’t strangers, but someone close to the child and the child’s family. Whether it’s a coach, teacher, clergy member, family friend, or even a close relative, most childhood sexual abuse is committed by a familiar face,” said DLG’s Chief Investigator, Moses Castillo, a retired LAPD sex crimes detective in the elite Abused Child Unit.
“If an adult makes regular efforts to spend more time (typically alone) with your child than you do as their parent, that’s a red flag,” Castillo added. “Premeditated attempts to get a child alone – whether to go out for ice cream, take a trip to an amusement park, the movies, etc. – are situations that can be conducive to sexual abuse.”
And, as DLG’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, has indicated, sexual predators like Zamora often secure positions that will offer unsupervised access to children.
“It’s also important to remember that sexual predators are notorious for seeking out positions (whether as a professional or volunteer) that allow them access to children. Granted, 95% of coaches, teachers, clergy, volunteers at religious institutions, etc. are likely upstanding citizens. But parents need to be aware that there’s no standard model for a sexual predator. A predator can be any of age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.,” Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, said.
“One major problem I consistently encounter with parents is their tendency to automatically view these individuals as sort of noble citizens. They don’t appreciate the potential predator instinct any random coach, teacher, clergy member, or even close friend or relative could have. I often tell parents about a case I was involved in as a Deputy District Attorney, where a teacher openly admitted that he chose the profession in order to have unlimited access to children. So, it’s important for parents to be aware that any professional who has direct private access to their children could potentially be a predator. Without encouraging paranoia, you do, in a sense, almost have to be on constant alert, because it can impact any child of any age/gender at any time. It’s not by accident that these people became teachers or coaches or clergy, it’s by design,” Dordulian added.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve swift justice that punishes the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law and recovers due financial compensation for the victim. California AB 218 offers childhood sexual abuse survivors an unprecedented opportunity at justice through its three-year “lookback window.”
Under the lookback window, all survivors of childhood sexual abuse are eligible to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation – regardless of the nature of the crime or how long ago it occurred. With AB 218, thousands of survivors now have the opportunity to finally obtain justice for crimes that would otherwise be barred under the statute of limitations. However, the lookback window – which effectively tolls (pauses) the statute of limitations on childhood sex crimes – is only available for a limited time.
After December 31, 2022, survivors who have not filed a claim will likely be left without legal recourse. Accordingly, survivors are urged to act immediately and ensure their claim is filed by a qualified and experienced sexual abuse attorney. Contact a member of DLG’s top-rated Sex Crimes Division today to discuss your case and file a claim in pursuit of a maximum financial damages award.
We’ll listen to the facts of your case (at DLG, we believe and support survivors), launch a thorough investigation led by our in-house Chief Investigator, and develop a precise legal strategy based on our years of experience and success. With DLG, you can be confident that your sexual abuse claim is in the best possible hands given our experience and proven results:
Contact us today online or by phone (818-322-4056) to take the first step towards securing justice and recovering the maximum financial damages award you deserve. At DLG, we’ll fight aggressively as your dedicated legal advocates, working to obtain justice and help you move forward on your own terms.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.