All Charges Dropped Against Retired School Counselor Accused of Sex Abuse

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

BANNING (CNS) – All charges were dropped Monday against a retired school guidance counselor in Banning who had been accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a female student several decades ago.

Ruben Rico Franco, 64, was arrested in December following a Banning Police Department investigation that spanned nearly two years.

Franco was charged with four counts of forcible lewd acts on a child, three counts each of oral copulation of a minor and sexual penetration of a child, and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, also known as statutory rape.

Franco had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing at the Banning Justice Center Monday. But before his case could be assigned to a courtroom, prosecutors informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Singerton that they wished to drop the criminal complaint and have all charges against Franco dismissed, according to court minutes.

There was no further explanation provided in the minutes.

Singerton accepted the motion and dismissed the charges, ordering Franco immediately released from custody at the Smith Correctional Facility, where he had been held in lieu of $2 million bail.

Singerton also terminated the criminal protective order that had been activated in January on behalf of the woman who had made the allegations.

Investigators had alleged the sexual abuse began in 1995, when the woman, whose name was not disclosed, was 10 years old, and continued until 1999.

The specific circumstances were not disclosed.

A police statement indicated that Franco made initial contact with the student at the campus, which wasn’t named, and thereafter had multiple encounters with her. He was in his 30s at the time and has since retired.

The woman, now in her 30s, approached police in February 2021 to report the alleged acts.

It was unclear why the investigation did not conclude until early December 2022, when the defendant was taken into custody.

Franco has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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