Three more alleged victims have come forward in the case of a Carlsbad modeling photographer accused of sex crimes against teenage clients during professional photo shoots, a prosecutor confirmed Wednesday.
Robert Koester, 52, was arrested on Nov. 13 for allegedly assaulting a 16-year-old victim as she posed for him. Koester had been sub-contracted by the modeling agency, Frank, and met with the teenager on Nov. 12 to take her photos.
During the modeling session, Koester allegedly inappropriately touched the teen. Afterward, the victim – known as “Jane Doe 1” – told her boyfriend what happened and he urged her to tell her parents. The family reported the incident to the Carlsbad Police Department (CPD) and Koester was arrested at his home on Carlsbad Boulevard the next day.
At the home, police also found evidence of the sex crime. Koester was booked into jail on several counts, including sexual battery, possession of child pornography and sexual penetration. He posted bail and was released.
On Wednesday, Koester -- who had originally faced six felony charges -- was arraigned and charged with 35 felony counts involving sex crimes against minors.
Deputy District Attorney Dan Owens confirmed that three additional victims had contacted investigators alleging sexual abuse at the hands of the photographer.
Owens said the alleged abuse happened during four separate instances between 2017 and this year, during modeling photography sessions. He said Koester had talked his victims into posing for nude photos.
Three of his victims – including Jane Doe 1 – are 16 years old. His fourth victim is now 18, but Owens said the crime against her happened when she was only 15 years old.
Owens said there may be more victims out there in this case and said those victims are encouraged to contact police with details – no matter how long it has been since the crime occurred.
The deputy DA praised Jane Doe 1 for having the courage to report what happened to her and said her case led prosecutors to proceed with felony charges against Koester and seek more victims.
“She has inspired other girls to disclose their own abuse,” he added.
NBC 7 spoke with Jane Doe 1’s mother following Koester’s arraignment Wednesday. She did not want to be identified but did speak a bit about her daughter.
“She’s very brave,” the mom said. “It was meant to be that she was able to have the strength to come forward and get the word out.”
The mother said the family was “elated” – under the awful circumstances – to hear that Koester is facing 35 felony counts. She said it’s difficult, however, to learn that there are more victims in this sex crimes case.
“We’re thankful he’s charged and that he’s going to be paying for what he’s done,” she added. “We know justice is going to be served.”
Jane Doe 1’s mother said the victim has always dreamed of being a model and, when she went to her photo shoot with Koester, she trusted him.
The family felt like he was a reputable professional, and Owens echoed that, saying Koester has had much success as a photographer in the modeling industry.
The mother shared this message for other young victims of sex crimes: “Don’t trust the word of someone – you know what’s right and wrong – and what people are supposed to be doing to you. If that happens, you have to speak up immediately; nothing good will come of it if you don’t.”
“Just because you’re dealing with an adult – someone who’s respected, wrong is wrong,” she added.
The mom said Jane Doe 1 is coping with the help of her supportive family and friends and is trying to live a normal life. Still, the trauma of what transpired will be difficult to overcome especially because the victim’s family doesn’t want her to feel like she has to give up on her dreams of being a model.
“We’ve got to try to find another way to build trust in the system of modeling,” the mother told NBC 7.
Owens said Koester is also facing charges of producing child pornography for commercial purposes, importing pornography into California and possessing it.
His bail was set at $1 million and, while he can post bond, he is not allowed to leave California and must surrender his passport. He could also be subjected to GPS monitoring.
Owens said the photographer, if convicted, is likely facing between 30 to 40 years behind bars.
Koester is from Carlton, Oregon. Carlsbad police have been working closely with the Frank modeling agency to identify any more potential victims or witnesses. There could be additional victims in Oregon, according to investigators, since Koester has a home there too.
Ownes described Koester as a "transient" who often travels between homes in the two states.
According to police, Koester has used the aliases "Rhake Winter" and "Bert Kay" when working with clients. The department is asking anyone with information to call police at (760) 931-3819 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.