INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, FL (TCPalm) – A 27-year-old maintenance worker at a local gym is accused of inappropriately touching an 11-year-old girl at a summer camp, said sheriff’s officials.
Erick Bello, of the 2700 block of Third Place Southwest, was arrested Monday and charged with lewd or lascivious molestation on a child younger than 12 by someone 18 or older after a July 6 incident at the Jungle Club Sports Complex, according to an arrest report.
Jungle Club owner John Cairns said Friday he was shocked to hear the allegations against Bello.
“He is an individual that, in my personal opinion, would never have done this,” Cairns said. “We are still investigating, and we’re never going to say never, but we have to make sure we have open arms and open eyes.”
On July 7, the girl told sheriff’s detectives she was trying to retrieve swim goggles while wearing a swimsuit the previous day when Bello touched her while they were alone inside a room, said Maj. Eric Flowers.
Bello initially told detectives he never was alone with the girl, but he later changed his account, saying he was alone with the girl but never touched her, Flowers said.
Detectives later learned Bello wasn’t a U.S. citizen, and he was illegally using someone else’s Social Security number for employment purposes, Flowers said.
Cairns, who said the allegations have affected everyone at the facility, described Bello as a “fine young man.”
“We’re all very upset with this,” Cairns said. “Erick is kind of a family member.”
Bello has worked at Jungle Club for several years and was hired by a contracted company, Cairns said. Bello is a family man with a child, Cairns said.
“He’s a very devoted and very well-liked individual,” Cairns said. “He always does his job and never interacts unless he’s asked to interact.”
On the day of the incident, Bello was asked to go upstairs in the facility to clean, as he does every day, Cairns said, but a girl was there who wasn’t supposed to be.
“Eric startled this young lady,” Cairns said, “and apparently they just passed each other on the stairs.”
Bello hasn’t worked at Jungle Club since his arrest, said Cairns, who added he would see what happens in the future with the court process.
Since the incident, some parents have been cautious about bringing their children back to the summer camp, Cairns said. Some have canceled, he said.
“If they’re uncomfortable, and they feel the place in unsafe, that’s their choice,” Cairns said. “I can honestly say this is one of the safest places that I would ever send my children.”