ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A dance instructor who appeared on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” is accused of sexually abusing girls at an Orlando dance studio.
Kevin Cosculluela, 25, pleaded not guilty following his arrest in December on charges of sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old child, solicitation of a minor, lewd or lascivious conduct and illegal use of a communication device, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
He has also been fired from his job at Peaches Dance and Music Orlando, the newspaper reported.
The charges followed an investigation by Winter Garden police, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies and the Department of Children and Families, which uncovered accusations of manipulation and sexual battery by two teenage girls who took lessons with Cosculluela.
One student told investigators that she idolized Cosculluela and had considered him famous and important because of his appearances on the reality television show about dance kids, their moms and their studio.
The investigation found that Cosculluela often took students to lunch, watched movies with them and celebrated their birthdays, a police report said. He also connected with students over social media, the report added.
The report said Cosculluela asked some of the girls for nude photos and twerking videos. One girl told investigators he could be scary at times if you didn’t do what he asked. She explained that he would yell, curse and ignore her for days, and threaten to halt his lessons with her.
He would also send messages that he loved her, the girl told investigators.
According to the arrest report, Cosculluela brought one girl to his home in early December and forced her to perform a sex act on him. He then drove her back to the studio and told her to “erase this from your memory and don’t tell anyone,” the report said.
The teen confided in another dancer at the studio, who said she’d had similar encounters with the instructor, the report said. The second teen told investigators she went to Cosculluela’s apartment on about 10 different occasions, adding that she trusted him and he took advantage of that, the report said.
“They put him on a pedestal, so they were willing to take whatever he did so they could keep him in their lives,” detective Bethany Rising wrote in Cosculluela’s arrest warrant.
Investigators spoke to an employee at the dance studio who is also a friend of Cosculluela. He told them he didn’t see any inappropriate behavior between the instructor and his students, the report said. He thought Cosculluela was a ”very nurturing teacher,” the report said.
Court records showed that the studio notified parents in late December that Cosculluela had been fired for inappropriate behavior, the Sentinel reported.
Cosculluela’s next hearing is scheduled for May 5. His attorney declined comment to the newspaper on Wednesday.