BETHESDA, Md. (WJLA) – A well-respected teacher and wrestling coach has been arrested for sex offenses against a teen girl he was coaching, mentoring and tutoring.
Montgomery County Police say Daniel Mandel Sirotkin, 30, of Germantown, is charged with two counts of Sex Abuse of a Minor and three counts of Third Degree Sex Offense.
Investigators say a friend of the alleged victim reported the sexual abuse to a Montgomery County Public School administrator, who promptly called the authorities.
Charging documents released Wednesday, allege the 2001 Quince Orchard High School graduate, began sexually abusing the girl in 2011, when she was 14-years-old. The abuse, which reportedly continued until sometime this year, involved multiple cases of groping and oral sex at various locations across Montgomery County.
"It's a been a very troubling time for him. He is of course very concerned and understands the nature of the charges. He's taking it very seriously, and we're going to respond appropriately," defense attorney Gary Gerstenfield said of his client, who he claimed, has been cooperative with authorities.
According to his Facebook account, Sirotkin attended Harvard University, where he competed on the Ivy League school's wrestling team. Upon earning his degree in 2005, the self-professed fitness buff, moved back to the Washington, D.C. metro area, where he was most recently living at his parent's home, along the 17300 block of Autumn Harvest Ct., in Germantown.
"You just don't know who your neighbors are sometimes," said Maria Phillips. "I don't know that I've seen him except driving by sometimes, so it's kind of scary."
"It's very troubling, especially since he's right across the street," added Johnny Bonilla, another next-door-neighbor. "In this day and age, you've got to be extremely careful."
ABC7 has confirmed Sirotkin was a substitute teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools from Feb. 2007 until Nov. 2012. A school district spokeswoman confirmed he worked at 20 buildings during his tenure. Those schools included Albert Einstein High School, Clarksburg High School, Goshen Elementary School, Thomas Wootton High School and Walter Johnson High School.
Chris Bonilla, 19, says Sirotkin was his substitute teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School during his junior and senior years, where he went by “Coach."
"He was a substitute for gym class and government class, so he seemed really cool, but there were a lot of rumors going around that he was kind of flirtatious," Bonilla said.
From 2010 until 2011, Sirotkin was a travel squad head coach for the Viking and BCC Mat Club the Bethesda-based wrestling group's website says. During a phone interview, league director Michael Lerner told ABC7, "We are very surprised by his actions." Lerner also said upon learning of the serious allegations against Sirotkin, the co-ed youth wrestling club sent an email blast to every parent whose child had him as a coach.
Most recently, Sirotkin was an assistant wrestling coach and substitute teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney. School President Paul Barker confirmed the 30-year-old coached during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 wrestling seasons, and sub-taught social studies classes during the 2012-2013 school year. Barker said the prestigious Catholic preparatory institution released Sirotkin from his duties in the spring, but wouldn't go into detail as to why.
"We pulled his file today, and verified that his criminal background check was clean while he worked here. And it was," Barker remarked.
Upon news breaking Tuesday, staff members planned an all-school assembly, which was held Wednesday morning. There administrators informed the student body of 1200 about Sirotkin's arrest, and made counselors available to teens who needed to talk about the revelation.
"I don't think anybody can face charges like this and not feel like they're starring at a great abyss. That said, he has a strong sense of faith, and I think that's what's going to get him through this," Gerstenfield, who first met with Sirotkin Tuesday night in the county lock-up, concluded about his client.
In effort to protect the victim's identity, investigators have not stated how or where Sirotkin met the 14-year-old girl.
If you think the Harvard graduate engaged in inappropriate behavior with their child, you're asked to call the Montgomery County Police - Family Crimes Division at: (240) 773-5400.
Sirotkin remains behind bars on a $100,000 bond. If convicted on all five felony counts, he could face 80 years in state prison.