NEW CHARGES FOR TEACHER (Prosecutors allege in 27-count indictment that two more children were sexually abused by karate instructor)
James Bonfiglio, a 37 year old karate instructor who was arrested at his Ronkonkoma apartment in October 2007, is charged with committing a criminal sexual act, a felony, as well as misdemeanor sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He is accused of molesting a 13 year old student in July. Bonfiglio, owner of Excel Karate Academy, pleaded not guilty and was held on $30,000 cash bail or $60,000 bond. He was released from jail after posting bond. Bonfiglio is also being investigated for secretly videotaping his students and having improper relationships with as many as 10 other boys. The investigation has uncovered hidden cameras and videos shot in his apartment and at the karate school. Additional unspecified charges were likely.
Bonfiglio faces a new indictment on dozens of charges ranging from distributing pornography to videotaping other boys in sexual situations. The indictment handed up in February 2008, charges him with 41 new counts, some involving sexual photos and videos that police said he made of himself and children using hidden cameras in his home and karate school. The most serious charge, using a minor in a sexual performance, carries a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison.
Gerard Patalano, 24, said he was also abused by Bonfiglio. He said he was a kindergartner when he met Bonfiglio. He began attending several classes a week and eventually got his black belt. Patalano charges that the abuse began then, with stops at the closed karate school, where Bonfiglio played pornographic videos for his student. Later, Bonfiglio began molesting Patalano, who was then in the fourth grade, he said. The abuse would last 18 months. After finding out, his parents pulled him from the school. But because they were worried about how an investigation would affect their son, they never filed a police report. Patalano contributed to the silence by holding back many details of the abuse.
Bonfiglio was thrown back in jail on March 31, 2008, as prosecutors revealed new charges that the once-popular teacher abused two more children. He now faces 70 counts of sexual abuse relating to 12 current or former students at his karate school, as a 27-count indictment supplemented the existing 43 charges pending against him since February. Bonfiglio pleaded not guilty and was held on bail of $1 million cash. He had been free on $500,000 bond since pleading not guilty to the original indictment.