Residents of Leisure World want more transparency and cooperation from the retirement community’s governing board as they seek information from police about the registered sex offenders who live there after police charged one resident with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old-boy in his apartment.
On Dec. 14, officers of the Frederick Police Department charged 63-year-old Ramon Manuel De Los Reyes of Chiswick Court, Silver Spring, with sexual solicitation of a minor, third-degree sex offense and second-degree rape.
According to police, De Los Reyes befriended the boy through social media and drove to his Frederick County home to pick him up after his grandmother, who he lives with, had gone to sleep. After bringing the boy to his home in Leisure World and allegedly assaulting him, he drove the boy back to his home. The grandmother contacted police the next day.
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act – a federal law which was part of the 1994 crime bill signed by then-President Bill Clinton – requires states to implement a registry of those who have been convicted of certain sex crimes and crimes against children. Frederick City Police Sgt. Andrew Alcorn explained that Maryland’s sex offender registration law requires sex offenders to register with law enforcement in the county they live in.
According to Montgomery County Police spokesperson Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, it is also normal protocol for law enforcement in Montgomery County to post awareness flyers to notify neighbors when a registered sex offender moves into a new residence.
A 1996 amendment to the Wetterling Act known as Megan’s Law requires states to make information about registered sex offenders available to the public in various forms, which can include posting flyers, door-to-door notifications by police, and searchable online databases of sex offenders.
In the case of De Los Reyes – who in 2000 pled guilty to second-degree sexual offense, third-degree sexual offense and child abuse of an elementary-aged child, according to Maryland court records – law enforcement made Leisure World residents aware of his arrival in the community in 2008 by putting up posters with the appropriate information.
But while many of those who live at Leisure World are sympathetic to the fact that even sex offenders need a place to live, many are seeking more transparency and information about the registered sex offenders living in their midst in the wake of De Los Reyes’ arrest for another sex offense against a child. To that end, some residents and members of the advocacy group “JustUs” have been seeking changes to Leisure World’s communication guidelines after learning in 2016 that approximately 12 registered sex offenders lived in the independent living community.
“They have to have some place to live – people who have done some unkindly things in our society, however, we need to have open transparency about who is living here,” said Carole Portis, a representative of Leisure World Mutual 22 – one of 29 residential buildings at Leisure World. “We are seniors. We need to have continuous town hall meetings and open communications. I want things to change.”
Leisure World resident, Susan Jaiquith, a retired kindergarten teacher, said she wants leadership to work with residents to help them understand all the elements associated with registered sex offenders, including how to work with them on reentering society, as well as the potential dangers to children.
“Education is the best tool that we have to help protect our kids,” Jaiquith said. “Education and awareness, with facts from people who have expertise in the field of working with sex offenders. We need to hear from them.”
Jaiquith said she would like to hear how sex offenders can live in the community and that residents are responsible for the well-being of young kids visiting.
“You don’t really know everybody’s background,” Jaiquith said. “You can never in this day and age, sadly, be too certain who’s with your child and what their motivation might be behind closed doors.”
JustUs Administrator Sheryl Katzman said in August 2016 that then-4th District Commander Laura Lanham offered to host a community meeting at Leisure World to discuss residents’ concerns. But Leisure World Board Chairman David Frager rejected the request in an email, Katzman said, which she provided to the Sentinel.
Katzman also said in December 2017, she was escorted out of the office of Leisure World President Kevin Flannery when she attempted to join a meeting with Jaiquith. Flannery denied the accusation, but Jaiquith said Katzman’s accounting of the situation was accurate.
When asked about Katzman’s account of the incident, Frager called her allegations “bullshit” and denied turning down any request for a special presentation about sex offenders.
“If I had been aware of the request, I would have said it was unnecessary,” he said. “There is a limited amount of action that you can take in terms of sex offenders living in our community.”
After being shown the email, Frager recalled the conversation, but said that his stance remained the same.
“This is the first incident that I’m aware of involving someone, and it was someone who used the web to entice someone a child from another community way out,” he said. “In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve not been aware of anything inappropriate happening to a resident in our community.”
Frager explained that there are currently 12 registered sex offenders living or working in Leisure World, but he is unaware of any notification guidelines requiring Leisure World management to inform residents.
“We’ve had people who have been very upset here over the years about the fact that many social workers send convicted sex offenders who have completed their terms and are still on registries because we don’t have any kids,” Frager said. “To the best of my knowledge, there are no registered protocols . . . When people bring their children, we expect them to provide appropriate supervision. That’s only what a normal, healthy individual would do.”
Frager later said that he would now be open to the idea of a meeting if it made residents feel safer, and Leisure World management later announced that the long-requested meeting would take place on Jan. 11.
The announcement came through an email at 5:21 p.m. on Jan. 3, after the Sentinel’s interviews with Flannery and Frager.
Sgt. Alcorn said he believes that De Los Reyes could have more victims who have not yet contacted police.
“We don’t have any specific locations where victims could be right now, but based on his willingness to travel from Montgomery County to Frederick County, I strongly suspect there are victims 45 minutes to one hour’s drive to Leisure World,” he said.
Alcorn added that police are trying to impress upon the community how important it is to be aware of who children are interacting with on social media.
“We are trying to educate parents and put it out there if your child has access to social media, to mobile devices, and they’re under the age of 18, we’re asking that you be involved in their social media lives,” Alcorn said.
While it appears Montgomery County Police are not actively working the investigation, Sgt. Innocenti said they are accepting information about possible victims.
“We have communicated with Frederick Police about this investigation and will investigate any allegations that are brought to our attention,” she said. “We cannot confirm active investigations, but urge anyone who believes he/she is a victim to come forward to police.”
The community safety forum, which will include Montgomery County Police District 4 Commander Marc Yamada, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 2:00 p.m. in the Clubhouse II auditorium.