A Santee man who describes himself as a security expert was arrested on several felony counts of child abuse officials said Wednesday.
Tony Burleson, 43, was booked on four counts of lewd and lascivious acts with children.
On Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Burleson was found asleep in his Hummer on Santo Road in Tierrasanta. The vehicle was parked near a Bright Horizons daycare center.
San Diego County sheriff’s deputies had been looking for Burleson since Friday when they were contacted by an alleged victim claiming abuse decades ago. Detectives interviewed the person and then found three more victims in this case but would not go into specifics in order to protect the victims’ identities.
When asked if there were any recent victims, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Lt. James Bolwerk said, “We believe right before this was found out, there may have been something going on.”
Since Burleson was a firearms instructor, deputies believed he was armed and dangerous and sent out an alert to other law enforcement agencies.
His website offers training ranging from how to handle evidence to how to use stun guns and tasers.
One of Burleson’s side businesses is fugitive apprehension according to Bolwerk.
He was not armed at the time of his arrest.
The defendant was rumored to have referred to himself as belonging to different law enforcement agencies but Bolwerk could not give specific information.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Burleson hung his head low and sat very still as Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright described the charges against him.
Prosecutors say Burleson allegedly abused three children over the course of the past eight months.
Due to the seriousness of the charges against Burleson, Bright asked a judge to set Burleson’s bail at $1 million, instead of the initial $150,000 bail. A judge agreed.
Burleson has been charged with two counts of oral copulation on a 17-year-old, which allegedly happened six to eight weeks ago. Prosecutors say Burleson told the minor he/she could make money off the sex acts.
He has also been charged with lewd and lascivious acts with children 14 and 15 years old. One of them is a relative of Burleson, prosecutors said. In both cases, prosecutors say Burleson told the minors he was fitting them for condoms.
According to Deputy DA Bright, Burleson allegedly put himself out of contact with anyone for 36 hours on purpose once he learned that authorities were looking for him.
“When he got wind of the law enforcement looking into him, he basically disappeared; people couldn’t find him. In fact, someone in his community actually filed a missing persons report and he didn’t have contact for 36 hours until he was found,” said Bright.
Burleson pleaded not guilty to all charges.
He faces 14 years in prison, if convicted. He’s scheduled to appear in court again on Jun. 7 and Jun. 11.
If there are any additional victims or witnesses, investigators say they can contact them at (858) 565-5200.