$10M Bail for Bonita Man Accused of Being Sex Crime Fugitive - NBC 7 San Diego

$10M Bail for Bonita Man Accused of Being Sex Crime Fugitive

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    $10M Bail Set for Bonita Man Accused of Being Sex Crime Fugitive

    Community groups in San Diego County are investigating possible connections with a Louisiana man now in custody on allegations of child molestation made decades ago. Frank Selas was in court on Wednesday. NBC 7's Wendy Fry has more. (Published Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016)

    Community groups in San Diego County are investigating possible connections with a Louisiana man now in custody on allegations of child molestation made decades ago.

    U.S. Marshals arrested Frank Selas, 76, Monday at his home on Casa Verde Court in Bonita. Selas was a fugitive, officials said, wanted in connection with accusations made in Louisiana three decades ago.

    The former PTA president and Cub Scout leader is contesting he is the man wanted in Louisiana on a decades-outstanding warrant for sexually abusing children during a free camping retreat. Selas pleaded not guilty to a fugitive charge Wednesday in court and a judge set bail at $10 million.

    "This is a shock to everybody, that these allegations have even been made," said Selas' defense attorney Marc Carlos. "It's from 1979, some 35 years ago, so it’s a shock to them."

    Community Groups React to Arrest of 'Mr. Wonder'

    [DGO] Community Groups React to Arrest of 'Mr. Wonder'
    NBC 7's Elena Gomez reports on the response from Boy Scouts of America and the Chula Vista school district about the arrest of Frank Selas, the man known as "Mr. Wonder" on Louisiana television.
    (Published Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016)

    At the identity hearing, officials will take Selas' fingerprints to determine whether he is the same man named in the warrant. 

    "The investigation of child abuse was a lot different in 1979 than it is now," said Marc Carlos, Selas' defense attorney. "There's a lot more suggestibility in children's interviews. Police departments and investigating agencies have changed the way they deal with sex cases and children since 1979."

    He will appear next in court on Feb. 11. 

    TV Personality 'Mr. Wonder' Arrested in San Diego

    [DGO] TV Personality 'Mr. Wonder' Arrested in San Diego
    Frank Selas has been on the run for the last three decades all over the world but has spent the last 30 years here in San Diego County. NBC 7's Elena Gomez reports.
    (Published Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016)

    Investigators say Selas spent the last three decades on the run, living in San Diego and volunteering with community organizations including the Cub Scouts and the American Red Cross.

    The leader of Pack 8-88 in Bonita told NBC 7 he was very surprised by what he saw on the news. Selas had helped set up the chapter in 2013 and then retired right after, the leader said.

    The Boys Scouts of America sent an email to NBC 7 stating that Selas had been removed from the scouting program for non-compliance with our youth protection policies and procedures. The BSA also said the recent allegations appear to be unrelated to scouting.

    According to an online blog, Selas was involved in parent teacher groups in the Bonita area, he was a swim and CPR instructor for the American Red Cross and also organized camp style programs for children.

    Selas is a former member of the Bonita Optimist Club, according to president Tim Jeffries.

    He hasn’t been very active in the club for perhaps a decade and is now no longer involved with the club, Jeffries said.

    Even so, members are upset about the allegations.

    "I was certainly shocked,” Jeffries said. “Especially since serving the youth community is our primary mission. It's really disturbing."

    The Chula Vista Elementary School District informed NBC 7 that there does not appear to be a direct connection between their schools and Selas.

    “The individual's access to area youth raises a number of 'red flags.' It is very much a concern to us," according to the district’s statement.

    In the late 1970s, Selas hosted the "Mr. Wonder" show on KNOE-TV in north Louisiana. In 1979, the sheriff's office received complaints from parents who accused Selas of abusing their children during a camping trip near Valentine Lake at Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.

    The three-day retreat was promoted by Selas through Ouachita Parish, associated with his TV personality. He promoted the trips for children ages 5-11, according to a flier provided by the sheriff's office.

    Louisiana law enforcement officials obtained a warrant for Selas' arrest in relation to two counts of obscene behavior with a juvenile. When officials went to his home, his wife told them her husband had fled in the family car. In the coming days, officials would find Selas' car in Dallas. Selas, then 39, allegedly fled the country and flew from Dallas to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, before investigators could arrest him.

    When Salas returned to the U.S., investigators say he changed his last name and Social Security number.

    NBC 7 Investigates is looking into connections between Selas and community groups in our region. If you have information, please contact our hotline at (619) 578-0393 or email NBC7Investigates@nbcuni.com.