Cops: Polk school bus driver lured girls with candy, molested them

Carlos Ojeda, Polk County Jail booking photo

DAVENPORT, Fla. (WFLA) — A Polk County school bus driver is charged with 10 counts of capital sexual battery after detectives say he used candy to lure special needs students on his bus and then sexually abused them.

Investigators with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office say Carlos Ojeda, 72, of Haines City, had candy in his pocket when he was arrested.

On April 13, a student at Horizons Elementary School in Davenport told a school counselor that he saw Ojeda place his hands down the pants of two female students on several different occasions. The incidents happened on the school bus, according to an arrest affidavit.

Detectives say both of the victims were under the age of 12. All of the children on the bus are special needs students.

In addition, detectives said the suspect led them to two additional potential victims. These victims are also both under 12 years old. They “disclosed they were sexually abused” by the suspect, detectives aid.

According to the sheriff’s office, a review of the school bus video surveillance system shows Ojeda on April 8th, 11th, and 12th, standing in the stairwell of the bus while it is parked at the school, motioning to the victim to approach him, showing her a piece of candy. During each incident, once the girl was within arm’s length, Ojeda pulled her toward him and sexually battered her out of the sight of the other students in the stairwell. Detectives say he touched her under her clothing, then gave the girl candy. She then went back to her seat. A clip of surveillance video was released by the sheriff’s office (video above).

During a post-Miranda interview, detectives say Ojeda told them he sexually battered those two girls eight times, in addition to the two other potential suspects.

Carlos Ojeda, Polk County Jail booking photo
Carlos Ojeda, Polk County Jail booking photo

“There are no words to describe the depravity displayed by this suspect. He drives a school bus, where he has access to these precious children. He lures them with candy, and physically assaults them in such a way that nobody will see it, or report it,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Ojeda was booked into the Polk County South County Jail in Frostproof, where he is being held without bond. Detectives say he had candy in his pocket when he was arrested.

PCSO detectives will continue to interview all of the school children Ojeda had access to and their parents, to identify any other potential victims.

“Together with the Polk County School Board we are committed to keeping children safe. Thanks to their quick actions in reporting this, we were able to prevent this monster from hurting anyone else,” said Sheriff Judd.

The Polk County School District said an automated telephone call is being sent to the parents or guardians of students who rode on Ojeda’s bus to make them aware of this investigation.

“I am angry and deeply saddened,” said Polk Schools Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd. “Parents entrust us every day with the most precious thing in their lives: their children. Their safety is our highest priority.”

According to the Polk County School Board, Ojeda drove a school bus for three different schools: Bus number 0603 for Horizons Elementary, Boone Middle, and Ridge Community High.

He has been employed as a PCSB bus driver since April 2007 and the school board has suspended him without pay. Ojeda’s salary was $11,700.

If anyone has information or suspicions about Ojeda they are urged to contact Lieutenant Ian Rylott at (863) 298-6200.


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