Former lifeguard supervisor sentenced for sex crimes against young female employees
The Cook County state’s attorney investigation into misconduct at the Chicago Park District gets its first conviction after Mauricio Ramirez pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
A former supervisor of lifeguards has admitted committing sex crimes against much-younger female employees that he supervised, becoming the first Chicago Park District employee convicted in the year-old investigation by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Mauricio Ramirez, 32, was sentenced last month to three years of probation, 40 hours of community service, electronic monitoring and lifetime sex offender registry after pleading guilty to two felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, court records show.
The criminal case against another former lifeguard supervisor charged with sex crimes is pending, according to court records.
Ramirez’s conviction came more than 11 months after Foxx opened an investigation into widespread complaints of sexual violence targeting lifeguards at Chicago’s public beaches and pools. At the time, Foxx said she was acting on information received from City Hall’s then-inspector general, Joseph Ferguson.
In a letter to top parks leaders last year, Foxx said her office was looking into accusations of “certain criminal conduct, including but not limited to, past and present sexual assault and harassment, obstruction, witness tampering, concealment of criminal conduct and official misconduct of Park District employees and members of the Board.”
In a statement to WBEZ last week, Foxx spokesperson Tandra Simonton said, “We charged two sexual assault cases and as more victims come forward, we will continue to work with the Chicago Police Department in reviewing those cases. The public corruption investigation remains ongoing.”
The scandal prompted the resignations last year of the park district’s longtime CEO and board president, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot apologized to lifeguards affected by the scandal and promised reforms to ensure a safer workplace at the city’s parks.
The park district’s inspector general had been secretly conducting an investigation into dozens of sexual misconduct complaints in the agency’s Aquatics Department for more than a year when WBEZ broke the story in April 2021. Current and former lifeguards described a workplace culture of misogyny and abuse at the beaches along the lakefront and at pools across the city going back decades.
The lawyer representing Ramirez, Paul De Luca, declined to comment on the plea deal. But as he admitted his guilt in court and was sentenced, Ramirez said he took “full responsibility for my actions” and expressed contrition to his victims, according to a transcript of the hearing in the case on July 20.
“To the victims, I’m sorry for my crimes and all those affected by the aftermath,” Ramirez said in front of Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Alfredo Maldonado. “Even though I cannot undo my wrongdoings that I have done, I will continue to reflect on these mistakes and hold myself accountable for the distraught that I have caused. I’m committed to never being that person again, Your Honor.”
Ramirez said he had nobody to blame but himself for ending up in court.
“I am remorseful and regretful for the offenses I committed,” he said. “They are not indicative of the man my parents raised me to be. I am ashamed of the profound effect that this had on my loved ones.”
Prosecutors said Ramirez’s two female victims would have testified against him if he had attempted to fight the charges at trial.
One of the victims was 16 and Ramirez was 24 at the time of the sexual abuse in 2013. The other victim also was 16 and Ramirez was 31 when he sexually abused her last year.
Prosecutors also said they had physical evidence against Ramirez. Court records show the second victim completed a sexual assault kit at a hospital on Sept. 27.
Ramirez quit his job with the park district on Oct. 4 and was arrested later that month.
Records show he began working for the park district in May 2012, rising to the rank of natatorium instructor, and he was the highest-ranking among three supervisors who oversaw lifeguards at Humboldt Park in the summer of 2021.
Another former lifeguard supervisor, Hector Coz, was arrested and charged with sex crimes in May. The next court hearing in Coz’s case is scheduled for Wednesday.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.