For two summers, Chicago Park District lifeguard supervisor Mauricio Ramirez allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl he supervised three to five times a week — and punished her when she refused to agree to engage in sex acts with him, authorities said Wednesday.
The new charges date back to 2013 and 2014 and mark the second time that Ramirez, who’s now 32, has been charged with sex crimes against a much-younger girl he supervised at the park district.
In October, Ramirez quit his job and became the first person to face criminal charges in the scandal involving widespread complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and assault of female lifeguards at the park district.
Ramirez was out on bond in that case — which involved a 16-year-old girl who worked with him at Humboldt Park last summer — when Chicago police say they arrested him for the second time on Tuesday, in the 1600 block of West Cullerton Street.
Now, Ramirez faces two new counts of criminal sexual assault and abuse against another underage victim.
And in the new case, Cook County prosecutors say Ramirez abused his authority as a park district employee to sexually exploit a teen.
He allegedly gave his victim gifts, longer lunch breaks and shortened work hours because he had sex with her three to five times a week.
However, “If the victim refused to do something, the defendant would punish the victim by making the victim stay on duty longer or perform extensive workouts,” according to court records.
The victim came forward to the Cook County state’s attorney, the park district’s inspector general and Chicago police in early November, after seeing news coverage of the first case against Ramirez, authorities said.
WBEZ first reported in April that the park district’s watchdog had been conducting an investigation since early 2020 into allegations against dozens of employees accused of a wide variety of misconduct.
After that first story, more than a dozen female former lifeguards came forward and told WBEZ they suffered in a workplace culture of pervasive harassment and sexual violence that dates back decades. They alleged their complaints often were ignored by supervisors who were well aware of the misogyny and abuse at the city’s beaches and pools.
The scandal recently prompted the resignations of the park district’s longtime chief executive, Michael Kelly, and the politically connected president of the park district’s board, Avis LaVelle, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her new, interim parks leaders promised reform.
By then, however, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had opened a criminal investigation at the park district, after she received information about lifeguard abuse from then-City Hall Inspector General Joe Ferguson in August.
Foxx has assigned units specializing in sex crimes and public corruption to investigate the park district’s handling of the matter, and she called on survivors of lifeguard abuse in Chicago to contact her office on a hotline for them, at (312) 603-1944.
Alleged sex crimes in park district shower, locker rooms
In the second case against Ramirez, prosecutors say he was a 23-year-old lifeguard supervisor when he met the teenage victim at a training class in March 2013. The alleged abuse began on July 26, 2013, after a party where the victim was drinking alcohol.
He is accused of driving the girl to a motel, carrying her into a room “because she was intoxicated” and sexually assaulting her on a bed. The abuse allegedly continued through the rest of the summer of 2013 and resumed in June 2014, when the girl started working again as a lifeguard.
The alleged assaults usually occurred in the back seat of Ramirez’s car or at motels. But prosecutors said there also were two incidents of sexual misconduct in park district shower and locker rooms in 2014.
Authorities say the sexual assaults also took place in the fall of 2014, when they say Ramirez would pick up his victim from her high school and help her with homework and ACT preparation.
The alleged victim was 16 and 17 at the time.
“In 2015, the victim outcried to her boyfriend at the time, but no action was taken,” according to court records.
Now 24, she participated in an interview recorded on video on Nov. 11, and she “provided screenshots of Facebook messages from 2014 that show conversations between the victim and the defendant including conversations regarding the defendant picking the victim up,” records show.
Before his latest arrest, Ramirez had been released and was on electronic monitoring because his family put up $50,000 toward his $500,000 bond, according to his lawyer, Paul De Luca.
The bond was increased to $550,000 on Wednesday. De Luca told the judge in the new case that Ramirez has no prior criminal history.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 11.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Follow him on Twitter @dmihalopoulos.