San Jose rec worker could get five years in teen molestation case

- A 25-year-old who worked for San Jose's recreation department until he was arrested in July for allegedly exchanging lewd images with a 15-year-old girl that he met online could face up to five years and eight months in prison, according to authorities.

By all accounts, Mark Joseph West's Facebook page portrays him as an upstanding individual. Under one of his profile pictures, one person thanked him for all he did for the City of San Jose.

Police said it was through social media that, back in January, he met and became involved with a girl 10 years younger than him.

"There was some material that was passed along of a lewd manner and again that's against the law," said San Jose Police Officer Albert Morales. "It's a felony."

Police arrested him last month on molestation charges after officers responded to a suspicious circumstance at a home in San Jose. Police aren't saying what those circumstances are and if it was West's or the alleged victim's home. KTVU asked police why there may be more victims.

"We don't know," said Morales. "In cases like this, it seems like the material was shared via social media and whatever information the detectives located either on a computer or at the residence when they did the search would lead them to believe there may be potentially other victims."

"This took everyone by surprise and we want to make sure our programs are safe," said David Vossbrink, who is a spokesman for the City of San Jose.

Vossbrink said West passed a thorough background check when he was hired as a part-time employee for the city's recreation program in 2011.

Recently, he worked as a fitness room attendant at the Camden Community Center. A letter sent to parents said the charges do not involve any of the program participants.

"His conduct didn't really exhibit any red flags," said Recreation Supervisor Dan Greeley. "I thought everything was going fine. He seemed to be well-respected by the community."

West also worked for the last eight years as a seasonal employee for San Jose's popular "Christmas in the Park" event.

He also passed a background check with that event and interacted with children running the entertainment stage and toy shop.

West has been arraigned on charges of two felony counts of exhibiting or soliciting lewd material to or from a minor and four misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child, prosecutors said.

West is being held at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas on $90,000 bail, according to jail records.

He's due in court Thursday to enter a plea.

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