A 32-year-old man who taught taekwondo in Colorado for at least a decade was sentenced to 50 years in prison for surreptitiously filming children in locker rooms and accumulating “hundreds of thousands” of photographs and videos, officials said. authorities said.
Erik Chen pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a child in March and was sentenced by Douglas County District Judge Patricia Herron on Sept. 15, according to a press release from the Office of the District Attorney John Kellner.
Han Won Lee, who has operated martial arts centers in the area for 27 years, told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that he had “no idea” his employee of 10 years was videotaping their students, calling the “completely devastating” discovery.
“My intention is to protect my students. What he did is absolutely despicable,” he added. “I tried to do the best I could for the community, I tried to teach the kids, and then something like this happened.”
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Initially, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Fox News Digital, Chen was charged with 12 counts of producing sexually illicit material involving children, 12 counts of possession of those videos, unlawful sexual contact for the purposes of sexual gratification, enticement of a child and criminal attempts at enticement. and sexual exploitation of a child and invasion of privacy for sexual gratification.
A father told police in February 2021 that his two daughters spotted Chen’s phone recording them while they were naked in the locker room at the Lone Tree Recreation Center. The girls told investigators they deleted the videos. Although an incident report was taken, there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Chen.
But Castle Rock police reopened their investigation four months later when a therapist told them one of his young clients told him Chen recorded them in the rec center bathroom in 2020.
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At summer camps Chen organized for the Han Lee taekwondo center, where students took lessons and swam, police learned that the instructor often left his backpack in the locker rooms and toilets, placing a cell phone with recording in his side pocket, according to the prosecutor’s press release. .
Computers, DVDs and CDs containing photos of children ages 8 to 12 were seized from Chen’s home in August 2021. According to the arrest affidavit, approximately 200,000 images and “well over 1,000 » videos featuring images of child sexual abuse – some obtained online and others on their own. -recorded — were found.
“There is a small portion of the images that show men, but approximately 90 percent of the images show young women, either nude or engaged in a sexual act,” the affidavit states.
“In addition to hundreds of thousands of pornographic images of young children, detectives discovered more than half a dozen videos taken by Chen in local restrooms or locker rooms, showing young girls and a boy changing clothes,” the press release said. “Chen is also seen in some videos preparing the phone to record.”
Lee fired Chen after learning of his recordings, according to the arrest affidavit.
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“He was clean. We did a background check on him,” Lee said. “I found out from a student and then when I called the parents, (they) told me (they) were going to call the police.
“He did a bad thing and he’s going to serve time in prison. It’s a horrible thing, what he did. I hope it never happens to anyone again.”
Its Aurora location, where Chen worked, is permanently closed. Lee said he has no plans to reopen that center. Some group classes, he said, are still going on in other locations.
“Visitors are down, but that’s OK. That’s how it happens,” Lee said. “I’m glad nothing more happened.
“I feel bad. I don’t want to end up in this situation by hiring a lot of instructors.”
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Upon his release, Chen will be registered as a sex offender for life.
“I am proud of these victims who had the courage to speak up and tell a trusted adult what happened,” Kellner said. “By coming forward, these young girls have likely saved many others from being victimized by this defendant. Our families should feel safer knowing that he will not be with our children for much longer.”