The investigation into the actions of alleged child molester Eric Uller continues with officers now focusing on individuals who may have failed to report or stop Uller despite knowledge of accusations against him.
Eric Uller was arrested in October 2018 on sexual assault charges after the Santa Monica Police Department received an anonymous tip that he had molested more than a dozen boys while volunteering with the department’s Police Activities League (PAL). At the time of his arrest, Uller was an employee in the city of Santa Monica’s Information Technology department. He killed himself in November 2018 shortly before he was scheduled to appear in court.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been interviewing witnesses as part of their ongoing investigation but would not provide details of their inquiry.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is currently conducting a criminal investigation at the request of the City of Santa Monica,” said Alba Ibarra with the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. “Due to the nature of this investigation, we cannot comment any further.”
After Uller was arrested, Santa Monica officials asked the Sheriff’s Department to investigate allegations that city and police employees knew about his behavior and did not report it in order to ensure a completely independent investigation, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.
“It is our understanding that as part of that investigation, LASD was looking into whether anyone knew of the alleged child abuse and did not report it, and that this part of the investigation has continued after Uller’s death. We have and will continue to cooperate with the LASD investigation in any way we can,” Farrell said. “The city is firm on its commitment to being thorough and transparent.”
She added the city also hired Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo to investigate the allegations and retained Praesidium, an outside consultant, to review the policies and practices of current youth programs to ensure that best practices for preventing abuse are in place.
Former PAL employee Michelle Cardiel said she recently told investigators that she reported Uller to authorities while he was allegedly abusing boys in the program. (Editor’s note: Cardiel is the mother of Jennifer Rice, Director of Marketing and Partnerships at the Daily Press.)
Cardiel said she made a formal complaint in 1993 about Uller’s behavior to her direct supervisor, Patty Loggins, after a boy in the program told her that Uller said he could take him to his father’s doctor’s office to show him how to clean his penis.
“It wasn’t the first time I had heard about him doing something like that,” Cardiel said. “It was well known in the police department … but nothing was ever done.”
The boy also said Uller offered to take him out to lunch and buy him gifts. Cardiel said she had previously observed Uller specifically targeting low-income, mostly Latino boys from the Pico neighborhood by offering to buy them shoes and video games.
Loggins shared the information with two former police officers, Hector Cavazos and Jay Trisler, but Cardiel said Loggins told her she would be written up for gossiping if she disclosed Uller’s behavior to anyone else.
“(Loggins) said “I know (Uller) and he’s not that type”,” Cardiel said. “I told her she was delusional.”
Cardiel said Cavazos and Trisler interviewed the boy but did not launch a full investigation.
“Why it wasn’t investigated is beyond me,” Cardiel said. “After I reported it, (Uller) came to my office and denied it and begged me to believe him. I said I didn’t have to believe him and told him to leave my office.”
Cardiel said she also reported Don Condon, a former PAL employee who was convicted in 2015 of molesting a child, after she saw young girls sitting on his lap in PAL’s recreation room in 1997. She said Loggins reprimanded her for being in the rec room instead of the filing room and threatened to write her up. Cardiel left her job at PAL one year later.
Attempts to reach Loggins for comment were not successful.
Cardiel said she was interviewed by the Sheriff’s Department as part of its ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding Uller’s crimes.
Oscar de la Torre, a longtime community leader who founded the Pico Youth & Family Center and sits on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, also said he was interviewed.
“They have reason to suspect that staff members knew and did not do their job as mandated reporters,” de la Torre said. “Uller was hired by the city and allowed to continue working with young people in the city’s youth technology programs. The Sheriff’s Department would not be investigating this if there wasn’t sufficient evidence that a coverup took place.”