HEBER CITY — A 21-year-old man whom police are calling a "child predator" has been arrested in Heber City and accused of preying on multiple 13- and 14-year-old girls.
Joaquin Lopez was booked into the Wasatch County Jail early Tuesday and charged later in the day in 4th District Court with two counts of rape of a child, a first-degree felony; sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony; and 14 counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a third-degree felony.
Investigators have identified at least five girls, all 13 or 14, who either engaged in sexual activity or were forced to engage in sex with Lopez while believing he was 16, according to a police affidavit. The investigation began after police say a relative of one of the girls recognized Lopez as someone she went to school with, prompting the girl to file a report on the SafeUT app.
Throughout the day on Monday, detectives interviewed girls who allegedly had contact with Lopez.
"It was apparent that all of these girls thought Joaquin was 16 years old," the affidavit states. "It appeared Joaquin was lying about his age so he could be around these victims."
Police noted that Lopez has a small figure and "looks like he could be 16."
When interviewed by police, Lopez denied the allegations and even claimed the mother of one of the girls gave him psychedelic mushrooms and "took advantage of him," according to the affidavit.
"Joaquin mentioned several of the victims by name, indicating they are trying to extort $20,000 from him. Joaquin said they think he is rich because he drives his dad's Mercedes SUV," the affidavit says. "Joaquin said there may have been some sexual activity, but he didn't remember because he blacked out on drugs. ... Joaquin was adamant that he was drugged with mushrooms and he is being set up."
When asked why he was hanging around 13- and 14-year-old girls, Lopez told officers "it's because they get him and understand him," the affidavit states.
Police arrested Lopez following an interview with him.
"It is apparent that Joaquin used deception to gain the trust of several victims and either had sex with them or forced them to have sex with him. Joaquin had several victims and even convinced some parents of his victims he was 16 years old. Because of his deceptive behavior, he was able to gain access to 13- and 14-year-old girls. I believe he is a danger to the youth of any community he lives in," according to the affidavit. "Joaquin is a child predator and should be held without bail."