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Escondido driving instructor pleads guilty to sex crimes involving students

Image via Janipewter (own work) (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons

An Escondido man arrested earlier this year on charges of molesting and secretly filming multiple female students while he worked as a driving instructor pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of child molestation and possession of child pornography.

According to the San Diego Police Department, 51-year-old Richard Joseph Banks, who was an instructor at American Driving School in El Cajon at the time of the crimes, was arrested in January on charges of sexually assaulting female students during driving lessons and also “using hidden cameras in the instructional vehicle to record the intimate parts of his female students.”

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged him with nearly three dozen charges in connection with 11 victims, most of whom were minors.

Prosecutors said the crimes took place between April and November last year.

Banks pleaded guilty Tuesday to 11 charges, including unlawful possession of sexually explicit images of a child under 18, sexual assault, abuse or molestation of a child under 18, and lewd and lascivious acts with a 14- or 15-year-old.

He is expected to be sentenced later this year to a prison term of 32 months to five years, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

At the time of Banks’ arrest, American Driving School owner Daniel Tackett said in a statement that Banks had passed a pre-employment background check. Prosecutors said Banks had no prior criminal history in San Diego County.

Tackett said, “We were shocked by the allegations against Joe. His actions are his own and violate the trust and policies of our company and the DMV regarding inappropriate conduct. He did not teach any students after SDPD notified us of its investigation. We have always encouraged parents to use the classroom to observe our teaching methods.”