A former music teacher who taught a handful of clinics at Santa Clarita Valley schools has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty last year to producing child pornography.
John Edward Zeretzke, 62, of Ventura, previously pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court to six state counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts with minors under the age of 14. He was sentenced in July 2020 in the state court case to 18 years in state prison.
Thursday’s announcement comes from U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin of the Central District of California, and the 183-month federal sentence will be served concurrently with the 18-year state sentence.
Zeretzke is the founder of Flutes Across the World, a contracting company that taught music to children both nationally and internationally, including in Southern California and Santa Clarita.
Following Zeretzke’s arrest four years ago and during the preliminary stages of the investigation, both the Saugus Union School District and Castaic Union School District informed parents about the investigation into the music teacher both districts had used.
“Defendant preyed on young, impoverished girls in third world countries and used his Flutes Around the World program as a means to contact and sometimes take advantage of those girls,” reads the federal government’s sentencing position. “The imbalance of power in these relationships that defendant used to obtain sexual images of minors justifies the full 18 years of custody the parties have recommended.”
According to the factual background of the federal case, Zeretzke is accused of having masturbated onto at least five flutes and watched the students play them during class, which aroused him. Zeretzke is said to have also taught classes in Honduras, Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia.
“As part of his communications with minors in the Philippines, between December 2016 and February 2017, defendant sent messages to a 14-year-old girl (“Victim 1”) that expressed defendant’s interest in having a romantic and sexual relationship with Victim 1,” reads the sentencing memorandum. “Around this time, defendant sent money to Victim 1, through one of her relatives in the Philippines. Defendant also asked Victim 1 to send him photographs of Victim 1’s genitalia.”
In addition to the sending of money and asking for photographs, Zeretzke set up a video call with the minor where he requested that she engage in sexually explicit conduct, and he then took screenshots and saved them to his hard drive.
The requested federal sentence was for 189 months in prison. Olguin ultimately went with 183 months. Zeretzke will also need to pay restitution as well as register as a sex offender.
Flutes Across America and/or Zeretzke visited seven Saugus district schools — Bridgeport, James Foster, Mountainview, North Park, Rosedell, Tesoro del Valle and West Creek — and three Castaic Union School District schools: Castaic Elementary, Live Oak Elementary and Northlake Hills Elementary. One of the five victims in the state’s case was reported at Castaic Elementary, and the others were found to be in Orange County, according to prosecutors.
Both districts at the time confirmed that students were never left alone with the individual being investigated and students were never without teacher supervision.