Calif. trainer charged with sexually abusing minor

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6: 18 PM ET

  • Kyle Bonagura

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    ESPN Staff Writer

    • Covers the Pac-12.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Attended Washington State University.
  • Paolo Uggetti

Chris Flores, a prominent Southern California youth coach, was arrested Thursday in Bakersfield on multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor.

A warrant for Flores’ arrest had been issued by the Santa Ana Police Department and was executed with the assistance of Bakersfield police, according to Santa Ana police Sgt. Maria Lopez.

Flores, 37, had been under investigation since Aug. 5, when police became aware of allegations against him. Flores, also known as “Coach Frogg,” is well-known in the region for his association with several high-profile current and former college and NFL football players.

The allegations surfaced on social media this week, stemming from an audio recording of two parties in which an adult male voice — identified by police as Flores — prods a girl to go see a movie with him. When she declines his request to FaceTime, the man says, “We talked about this, dude. You gotta stop with the nos.”

The man goes on to ask the girl whether she “deleted everything,” which Santa Ana police said its detectives interpreted as Flores asking her to delete messages between them.

According to police, the 14-year-old girl said Flores “sexually assaulted her multiple times through the year in 2021.” A second girl, 15, made similar allegations to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, according to Santa Ana police.

Flores was booked at Orange County Jail, and his bail was set at $500,000.

“Santa Ana Police Department Detectives believe there may be additional victims that Flores preyed upon as a coach with access to many children and teenagers,” the department said in a statement.

Flores’ attorney, Edward Welbourn, told ESPN that he could not confirm it was Flores on the recording and denied the allegations were true.

“Chris has been a coach, really a teacher and a mentor to kids in the community for many years and all of these allegations that have come out are very shocking to him,” Welbourn said Wednesday. “He absolutely denies any sort of inappropriate relationship or contact with any current or former athlete or student he’s trained. All he’s tried to do is help kids and move them on in their lives and their careers.”

The denial Wednesday came just hours after Flores’ business partner, former NFL cornerback Jason David, posted a video on Instagram in which he said the training facility they co-founded had severed ties with Flores and that he will support the Santa Ana Police Department in its investigation.

“Never in a million years would I ever imagine releasing a public statement to address sexual misconduct allegations that involves Mr. Flores and our innocent little girls,” David said. “I’m sick to my stomach. I’m disgusted. I’m outraged.” He added that he had empathy for families involved and encouraged people involved to speak up, adding: “We will stand with you.”

Flores and David founded Rising STARS in 2017, according to a document designed to provide information about the organization to potential financial donors. STARS Prep Academy, an offshoot of Rising STARS, has described itself as a co-op that provides elite sports performance training for middle school athletes.

STARS Prep Academy has a relationship with Santiago Charter Middle School in Orange County that allows students to attend school in the morning and train in their specific sport in the afternoon, according to an administrative official for the charter school. STARS and Santiago have a facilities-sharing agreement that allows kids in the STARS program to train on a portion of the Santiago campus. There were roughly 100 students, both male and female, in the program’s last academic year, according to multiple sources.

In the Rising STARS informational document, Kansas City Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei are among the athletes listed as being part of “Our Stars Family.”

On his public Facebook page, Flores often shares pictures of himself with prominent college football players and coaches and top recruits.

Flores’ involvement with high school and college athletes extends beyond his role as a trainer. In 2020, Levels Sports Group LLC was registered to Flores’ home address with his wife, Kristen, as the sole employee. In an updated filing with the state of California in November 2021, Levels Sports Group added a second manager, Justin Giangrande, who has identified himself as a co-founder of Levels Sports Group.

In a text message exchange with ESPN, Giangrande deferred questions about Flores’ involvement in the company to an external spokesperson working on his personal behalf.

“Mr. Flores is not, and never has been a legal partner of Levels,” the spokesperson, Tiffani Joy Murchison, told ESPN. “Of course, when folks are in similar industries and there are synergies, they do work together. And so he has been affiliated, they have worked together, but he has never been a legal partner.”

The statement contradicts a post from the Levels Sports Group Instagram account, which referred to Chris Flores as “our Co-Founder.”

Murchison was unable to provide any details about Kristen Flores’ professional responsibility with Levels, other than she is a “partner.” After speaking with ESPN, Murchison issued a statement on behalf of Levels that said the company had severed ties with both Floreses. It’s unclear what grounds the company had to sever ties with its founder in light of her husband’s arrest, and the company was unwilling to provide additional context.

“[Chris Flores] was widely viewed as an opportunist, who leveraged his relationships with athletes to make under-the-table deals with agents, financial advisers and likely college coaches,” one source in the name, image and likeness (NIL) industry told ESPN. “He had arranged deals with numerous entities in the past and most recently was widely known as the main recruiter for Levels.”

In June, former NFL quarterback Michael Vick joined Levels Sports Group as a partner and head of athlete development, he announced on Twitter.

This isn’t the first time Flores has faced charges related to sexual assault. In 2009, Flores was charged with raping and sodomizing a 21-year-old woman in Pasadena. His bail was set at $1.1 million.

According to court documents obtained by ESPN, Flores was charged with three counts: unlawfully kidnapping and carrying away the woman to allegedly commit rape/sodomy; sodomy by anesthesia or controlled substance; and rape by use of drugs. Flores, who at the time coached football at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, was found not guilty on all three charges after a 17-day trial in July of 2010.

The defense had argued that after a night of heavy drinking for her 21st birthday, the woman was intoxicated and was found outside several houses away from her home with Flores kneeling beside her. The woman said Flores had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated. The prosecution argued Flores should have realized she was unable to provide consent or resist.

“They just believed whatever he said,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the situation, told ESPN in a phone call. “The whole narrative through the trial was that nothing happened. … It was just gross. I just felt alone and like they made me out to be crazy.”

The woman said she had “zero connection” to people in the current case. But she added: “I knew this day was coming, but this is even worse than I thought.”

ESPN’s Pete Thamel contributed to this story.

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