Crime

Five children now claim a South Dade swim instructor fondled them during practice

Three more children under 12 said this week that South Dade Park Aquatic Center (pictured) swim instructor Daniel Diaz-Mejia placed his hands inside their bathing suits during practice, bringing the number of claims against him by children the past two weeks to five.
Three more children under 12 said this week that South Dade Park Aquatic Center (pictured) swim instructor Daniel Diaz-Mejia placed his hands inside their bathing suits during practice, bringing the number of claims against him by children the past two weeks to five. Miami Herald

Three more children have come forward with claims that a South Miami-Dade swim instructor fondled them under their bathing suits, bringing the number of young swimmers who say they were sexually molested in the past two weeks at the Helen Sands community center pool to five.

Daniel Diaz-Mejia, 20, is now facing five counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child. He has been denied bond, remains locked up at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and is expected to appear in court on Friday.

“Because he has access to so many kids there may be others,” said Alvaro Zabaleta, a Miami-Dade police spokesman.

All five girls told their parents that Diaz-Mejia placed his hands inside their bathing suits and touched their vaginas during swim practice at the Helen Sands Pool, 16350 SW 280th St. Two of the girls were nine, one was eight and two were seven.

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With three additional charges this week, Daniel Diaz-Mejia, 20, now faces five counts of sexually molesting children under 12. The South Miami-Dade swim instructor has been jailed without bond since July 16. Miami-Dade Corrections

Diaz-Mejia has been jailed since July 16, after the parents of two 9-year-old girls told police the swim instructor had put his hands inside the bathing suits of their children during swim practice. Both victims said they were molested on July 16. Police said he admitted to the crimes against the 9-year-olds under questioning.

He also told police there were two more victims. Those incidents happened on July 15 and July 17, according to his arrest report. Detectives tracked down the parents of an 8-year-old and a 7-year-old, who both said Diaz-Mejia placed his hands inside their bathing suits during swimming instruction.

The parent of a fifth girl, a 7-year-old, also came forward and said that her daughter was molested by the swimming instructor.

It wasn’t clear if the parent in the fifth case came forward after learning of the charges filed last week against the swim instructor.

Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation said Diaz-Mejia had been employed by the county for three years, They said he is a qualified swim instructor and lifeguard. The department refused comment other than noting that Diaz-Mejia had been fired.

Concerned that other children may have been molested, police are urging anyone with information to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.
Chuck Rabin, writing news stories for the Miami Herald for the past three decades, covers cops and crime. Before that he covered the halls of government for Miami-Dade and the city of Miami. He’s covered hurricanes, the 2000 presidential election and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. On a random note: Long before those assignments, Chuck was pepper-sprayed covering the disturbances in Miami the morning Elián Gonzalez was whisked away by federal authorities.
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