BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In addition to working as a Shafter code enforcement officer, Matthew Cain Maldonado volunteered to help with a youth wrestling program
During practices, Maldonado allegedly inappropriately touched three girls, ages 17, 14, and 12, according to newly-released court documents. He denied the allegations, first reported to police in April, telling detectives he remembered practicing wrestling maneuvers with the girls but didn’t touch them inappropriately.
Maldonado, 37, is charged with five misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child. He’s free on $50,000 bail and is due in court Feb. 9 to be formally arraigned.
The documents say Maldonado was previously investigated in 2017 by deputies in Wasco after being accused of inappropriately touching a minor. No charges are listed against him in connection with that investigation.
The practices took place on a large mat in the garage of another coach, Eli Espericueta, Shafter High School’s girls wrestling coach, according to the filings. Espericueta provided investigators with surveillance video from a practice where one of the alleged incidents occurred.
The coach said the cameras cover all points of entry to his home, the filings say, and he showed investigators clips from inside his garage that captured most of the wrestling mat.
The clips, which showed Maldonado and one of the alleged victims wrestling on April 6, captured Maldonado’s hands in “concerning locations,” the coach told police. He said he has taught children wrestling for 13 years and there’s no reason for hands to be placed in the groin area.
The coach said Maldonado had previously been a certified coach with him for the kids program and was currently involved with the Shafter High School track team, according to the documents. He said Maldonado now dropped by his home once in a while to help out with the youth practices.
Espericueta first contacted police April 14 after a student reported the alleged unlawful touching, according to the documents. The coach told police the practices in his garage weren’t part of the high school or club wrestling programs, and were instead used for off-season conditioning.
Maldonado claimed to have been an assistant coach with the Shafter High wrestling team for several years, the documents say, but Kern High School District officials say Maldonado has never coached at Shafter High.
Shafter City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez confirmed Maldonado worked for the city three years before resigning late last year.