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By JOHN ASBURY
A U.S. Marine Corps recruiter drove two would-be recruits to Hemet to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, then planned to force her to work as a prostitute, authorities said Monday.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Damone Cunningham, 33, of San Pedro, is charged with seven felonies, including attempted pimping and kidnapping with intent to rape after authorities said he tried to take her against her will to Los Angeles. He could face a life sentence if convicted.
Two potential recruits, Justin Willard, 18, of Los Angeles, and Homer Michael Daskalakis, 19, of Long Beach and formerly of Hemet, are also charged with lesser felonies.
All three were arrested May 23 after their vehicle was seen being driven erratically through Orange County, and police began asking the girl why she was in a car with three grown men.
Cunningham, a three-time recipient of the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, was based at a recruiting substation in Long Beach for the 12th Marine Corps District in San Diego.
The men were not in Hemet on the business of recruiting for the Marine Corps, said Hemet police Lt. Joe Nevarez.
Police are investigating whether he was using the girl to entice the other men to join the military.
"Anything's possible, but we don't know if it's true or not. There's a lot we don't know," Nevarez said. "If you dangle a carrot, someone's going to be enticed by it. He was in a position to recruit young men to fight overseas and possibly lose their lives. Obviously, he had to come up with an angle."
U.S. Marine Corps officials said that type of sexual enticement would not be tolerated.
"We're looking for people to join the Marine Corps for smart, tough, elite warriors, not people that behave like that," 12th Marine Corps Capt. Jill Leyden said.
Hemet police said the other two suspects, Willard and Daskalakis, were not involved in the alleged pimping plot.
Each is charged with unlawful sex and oral copulation with a minor more than three years younger, Riverside County district attorney's spokesman John Hall said. Both men could face a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in prison if convicted.
Attorneys for Daskalakis and Cunningham did not return calls Monday. Willard could not be reached.
Police have not released the 14-year-old's identity because she is a minor and believed to be the victim of a sex crime.
TRIP TO HEMET
The three men drove to Hemet on May 22 after arranging online to meet the girl for sex, Nevarez said.
The girl told police that when the three men arrived in Hemet, they had sex with her, Nevarez said.
The girl may have agreed to the meeting, but under the law, a minor isn't capable of giving consent to have sex with an adult, Nevarez said.
"She obviously wasn't threatened," he said. "She lived here in Hemet, so the reason they came here was to meet her. She couldn't drive to Orange County, so they had to come to her."
Cunningham had had an ongoing sexual relationship with the girl, but it's not clear how long he had known her prior to the May 22 visit, Nevarez said.
After the meeting that night, Cunningham told the girl he would take her to Los Angeles and pimp her out, Nevarez said.
"At one point she expressed she didn't want to go, and he grabbed her and attempted to force her to go against her will," Hall said.
ORANGE COUNTY ARREST
That night, witnesses saw a motorist driving erratically on Highway 91 and Highway 55 shortly after midnight and reported it to the CHP, Orange police Sgt. Dan Adams said.
The vehicle came to stop in a medical center parking lot as Orange police were arriving. Cunningham was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
When police began interviewing the girl, she told them she was having sex with the three men, Nevarez said.
She also told police that Cunningham wanted to make her work as a prostitute.
"If Orange police hadn't been so diligent as to why the girl was with three grown men, we may not have known," Nevarez said.
Orange police contacted Hemet detectives, who took the girl to Hemet for questioning and began serving search warrants on vehicles and for online records.
The girl was returned to her home, he said. Her parents had not known about her relationship with Cunningham or her meeting with the three men.
"This is one of those online predator things, and parents need to be aware of what their children have been doing online," Nevarez said.
Cunningham is being held at the Southwest Detention Center in French Valley outside Murrieta, with bail set at $1 million. Daskalakis' bail is set at $50,000. Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Willard is free on bond and scheduled to be arraigned June 24.
Since Cunningham faces civilian charges in Riverside County, he will not be court-martialed or punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice because that would be double jeopardy, Leyden said
Marine officials are working to administratively separate Cunningham, which means he would be forced to leave the military.
All recruiters receive the same training as other Marines, including on sexual harassment avoidance and ethics, Leyden said.
"The laws are the laws. ... There's no special rules that apply to recruiters because, as a whole, we have such high standards," she said.
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