Former WLV security guard charged in rape of student

Former WLV security guard charged in rape of student

From the Las Vegas Optic

Content Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual abuse that may be triggering and upsetting for some readers. Discretion is advised. 

A former West Las Vegas Middle School security guard has been arrested and charged with 15 felony counts following a lengthy investigation by the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.

Abran Paul Ulibarri, 52, was arrested Thursday and booked into the San Miguel County Detention Center. He is accused of forcefully performing sexual acts on a 14-year-old girl who was a student at West Las Vegas Middle School when Ulibarri was a security guard for the school. Ulibarri no longer works for the district, Superintendent Chris Gutierrez confirmed to the Optic Thursday.

Ulibarri has been charged with three counts second-degree criminal sexual penetration of a child using force or coercion, four counts second-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor by a person in a position of authority, six counts false imprisonment, bribery of a witness and criminal solicitation to commit tampering with evidence.

The charges were filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court Jan. 20, and he was arrested the next day. He appeared in Fourth Judicial District Court Thursday where prosecutors have filed a motion seeking to hold him without bond until trial.

The charges come after an investigation by the OAG which began in May 2019, court records show. A police report was filed with the Las Vegas Police Department on May 21, 2019, about an “ongoing sexual relationship” between Ulibarri and an eighth grade student at West Las Vegas Middle School.

LVPD opened an investigation, but no charges were filed. A civil lawsuit was filed against Ulibarri in July 2019, but was dismissed in April 2020 following 180 days of inactivity. However, around the same time, the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General took over the criminal investigation.

According to an arrest affidavit filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court on Wednesday, the initial May 2019 police report with LVPD was filed after the girl’s father learned of  an “inappropriate relationship” between Ulibarri and his daughter. When confronted about it, the girl admitted to the relationship, and said the two often communicated by text message.

The girl was interviewed at a safe house in both May 2019 and September 2019. During the interviews, the girl told investigators she suffered from anxiety and would often visit Ulibarri in his office because he would help her manage anxiety through breathing exercises.

As a friendship developed, the two began to discuss personal matters, according to the affidavit. Soon after, she said Ulibarri began complementing her appearance, telling her she was a “very beautiful girl,” and that if she were his age, they would be a couple. Investigators allege that soon after these comments began, the relationship turned physical.

LVPD interviewed Ulibarri in March 2020 and Ulibarri admitted to communicating via text message with the girl, but denied having any kind of inappropriate relationship with her, according to the affidavit. He said he never gave her his phone number, and that he believed she’d gotten it from an employee phone list in the school’s office. However, the girl told investigators Ulibarri gave her his phone number and told her to text him. She said she put his number in her phone because she was afraid he would be mad at her if she didn’t.

Investigators say Ulibarri used a code name when texting the girl so she would know it was him, and she said he instructed her to delete every message he sent. She said she continued to text him because she was afraid for her safety.

The girl told investigators conversations with Ulibarri began normally, but eventually turned sexual in nature. She said Ulibarri would talk about kissing her, and often described sexual acts he wanted to do to her. She told investigators she responded to his text messages because she feared he would be angry if she didn’t.

Ulibarri requested she send him photos of her, but she told investigators she wasn’t comfortable sending sexual images; however, she did send him one photo of her wearing a bra and shorts. He responded by telling her she had a “nice body,” according to the affidavit.

During interviews with investigators, Ulibarri denied exchanging sexual text messages with the girl, but when confronted with phone records obtained with a search warrant, Ulibarri said the girl often talked about “screwing,” and he admitted that he’d told her if she was older or if he were younger, then “heck yeah.”

When investigators asked about the photo of the girl wearing only underwear, he said, “I think I put ‘nice’ or something like that,” according to the affidavit. He still denied requesting the photo.

The girl told investigators that Ulibarri started acting “controlling,” often requiring her to stay close to him during lunch period. She said he would become agitated if she attempted to leave his side and didn’t like it when she gained attention from male students.

One day she wore a dress to school and Ulibarri became “agitated,” afraid she would draw attention from boys. She told investigators he was “acting like an aggressive angry boyfriend.” He then began requesting that she wear dresses to school, and she said when she did wear dresses, that’s often when the sexual encounters took place.

Ulibarri admitted to investigators that he sometimes told her to cover up because her “boobs” were too visible. He also admitted to making a comment about a particular outfit she wore one day, saying she was going to “drive the boys crazy,” according to the affidavit. He said she was “always” looking for him to say something, so he’d say things like “you look nice.”


Friendship turns sexual

Whenever the girl would experience anxiety or panic attacks, she would visit Ulibarri in the security office where he would help her calm her manage the anxiety attacks. As they got to know each other, they began to share details of their personal lives, according to the affidavit.

Durning a safe house interview with the girl, she told investigators Ulibarri had told her he was having problems with his marriage, and had even told her he and his wife weren’t having sex.

In April 2019, the girl visited Ulibarri in his office, and he helped her use some breathing exercises to calm anxiety. When she attempted to leave his office, she said he closed the door and wouldn’t let her leave, according to the affidavit. He trapped her in a corner and kissed her. The girl said she was scared and didn’t know what to do, and that she wanted to tell someone, but feared no one would believe her.

About two weeks later, Ulibarri again trapped her in his office, she said, where he kissed her, “squeezed her sides” and touched her legs. She said she was “afraid” to stop him, and that she felt “paralyzed.”

Weeks later, after lunch period, Ulibarri told her to come to his office, instructing her to ask a teacher permission to leave class to visit him. She said Ulibarri instructed her to sit down, and they had a normal conversation, but then he commanded her to stand up, pushed her into a corner, and again kissed her. The girl said Ulibarri went under her dress, penetrated her with his fingers, and then performed oral sex on her, asking her afterward if she liked it.

A few weeks later, she said Ulibarri again trapped her in his office, kissed her and put his hands down her pants. She told investigators she kept her eyes closed and wanted to cry. The incident left her “confused” as well as “shocked” and “scared,” she said. She was upset with herself for not stopping him, she told investigators, and she felt like it was her fault it had happened.

Weeks later, Ulibarri stopped her in a hallway, then demanded she come into his office and close the door. He again pushed her into a corner and kissed her, but she pushed him away and said she had to go to class. He allowed her to leave, but days later, he summoned her to his office, kissed her and penetrated her with his fingers.

During their next encounter, she said Ulibarri attempted to have sex with her, but that she stopped him. Ulibarri became irate, unbuttoned his pants and exposed himself to her. He also told the girl that no one can find out about their sexual relationship because he would go to jail and he’d no longer be able to see his family.


Investigation moves to Albuquerque

By the fall of 2020, Ulibarri was living in Albuquerque. On Oct. 8, 2020, OAG investigators served a search warrant on Ulibarri’s home on Albuquerque’s west side. They also interviewed him multiple times over the next several days.

During the first interview, Ulibarri told investigators he was aware allegations had been made against him, but denied kissing the girl or having sexual contact with her. He also said he thought the girl was 16, believing she’d repeated some grade levels in elementary school. He later admitted that he’d seen school records that showed she was 14.

Ulibarri said he often spoke to the girl, but only because she was part of a mentoring program and that he’d told her she could talk to him any time.

When investigators asked about specific incidents the girl alleged had happened, Ulibarri told investigators, “I’m not going to lie to you guys, I did flirt with her,” according to the affidavit. He added that he sometimes initiated the flirting, but said most of the time she came to him. He also admitted to flirting with her via text message.

Ulibarri denied making any sexual advances on the girl though, saying they’d only ever hugged, and only because she refused to go to class until he hugged her. However, in another interview, Ulibarri said he’d kissed her on the neck once. He told investigators he suspected she was trying to set him up, possibly because she was “looking for some money.”

In a subsequent interview, he admitted they would talk “dirty nasty” to each other. When asked for details on the nature of their text conversations, Ulibarri said they were “very sexual,” and elaborated to say they discussed “fingering,” touching and massages.


Arrest aftermath

In a letter from Attorney General Hector Balderas to the Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department, Balderas urged the PED and legislative leaders to consider immediate reforms to address New Mexico’s chronic concerns of physical harm to students in schools.

“Schools should be the safest place in our communities, and it is tragic that this student was subjected to this treatment by a school employee,” Balderas said in an email. “My office will continue to hold accountable anyone who harms a child.”

Superintendent Gutierrez said he couldn’t comment on the matter.

In a motion for pretrial detention, prosecutors called Ulibarri a “danger to the community,” and stated that “the defendant used his position of authority and trust to prey upon and exploit a 14-year-old middle school child so many times that she is unable to distinguish between all of them. Even more insidious, the defendant committed these crimes while (she) was at her most vulnerable — while she was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.”

Ulibarri is scheduled to appear in District Court Jan. 27 for a detention hearing. He remains in custody at SMCDC.