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Two plead not guilty to sexual misconduct with minors

Juliana D. Norwood | 3/28/2012, 5 p.m.

A female high school teacher was charged this week with sex crimes involving two teenage male students.

Gabriela Cortez, 42, pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court to six felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse. The alleged offenses occurred between September 2009 and November 2010, primarily in Cortez's home, when the boys--now adults--were 16 and 17, according to Deputy District Attorney Hyunah Suh.

Cortez was a Spanish teacher at Roosevelt High School at the time.

She was arrested Feb. 22 by the Montebello Police Department and released later that day after posting $140,000 bail.

Although Cortez teaches in Boyle Heights, the alleged crimes occurred in Montebello, where she lives, according to Montebello police Lt. Luis Lopez.

The investigation began Feb. 15 after authorities were contacted "by a victim of an alleged sexual relationship involving him and a teacher," Lopez said, adding that the man wanted to get things "off his chest."

"Although the victim was a student at the time of the alleged crime, he is now an adult," Lopez said.

The investigation triggered by the first alleged victim led to the second alleged victim, who "provided information regarding a sexual relationship involving him and the suspect," the lieutenant said.

Cortez is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse on April 11, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require her to stand trial.

Meanwhile, a 37-year-old Anaheim man also pleaded not guilty this week to charges of sexually assaulting two boys and possessing child pornography featuring the alleged victims.

Oscar Manuel Vaquera was living in a bedroom of an Anaheim house with other people who rented rooms there when he allegedly drilled a hole in his closet to secretly photograph and video record the young boys as they used the restroom, Deputy District Attorney Jess Rodriguez said.

Vaquera allegedly molested an 11-year-old boy while he slept overnight at the home between 2007 and 2008, Rodriguez alleged. He is also accused of video recording the alleged molestation, Rodriguez said.

Vaquera is accused of doing the same to another boy when he was between 9 and 11 years old between 2009 and 2011, except the boy was awake at the time, according to Rodriguez.

Anaheim police, who were investigating peer-to-peer file-sharing websites, traced child pornography

Vaquera allegedly used a cell phone and digital camera to make the recordings, Rodriguez said.

Vaquera was arrested March 1 on suspicion of possession of child pornography, and investigators learned of the alleged sexual assaults later, prosecutors said.

Investigators were going through Vaquera's computer to see if more charges could be added, Rodriguez said.

Vaquera was held on $1 million bail, Rodriguez said. He could face up to 45 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

Vaquera was charged with three felony counts of lewd acts on a child younger than 14, two felony counts of possession of child pornography, a felony count of distributing child pornography with sentencing enhancement allegations for lewd acts against more than one victim and substantial sexual conduct with a child.