DSS adoption halted for allegations of sexual abuse

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A man who was in the process of adopting two children has been accused of sexual abuse.

According to an incident report from North Charleston Police, 50-year-old Lazaro Vega-Sanabria was charged with two counts of first-degree assault and battery and criminal sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 11.

The police report states a student at a Charleston County school told authorities that the suspect molested him. The victim said the suspect told him he had to "check his privates" to make sure he was developing correctly.

On another occasion, the victim said the suspect took him to the store to buy candy and then assaulted him again in the kitchen when they got home. This time the suspect claimed he had to clean the victim with soap, water and a Q-Tip.

The victim's brother also reported abuse, saying the suspect wore doctor's gloves when he "examined" him.

Vega-Sanabria also is listed on the College of Charleston's staff listing as an adjunct professor of Spanish.

The College issued a statement on Vega-Sanabria's arrest saying that he had been banned from the campus.

"Upon receiving notice of serious charges of off-campus criminal conduct by Adjunct Professor Lazaro Vega-Sanabria, the College of Charleston took immediate action and issued an order barring Vega-Sanabria from campus and prohibiting him from having any interaction with students. Vega-Sanabria's employment with the College will be terminated," the statement reads.

Officials at the College said Vega-Sanabria passed a mandated background check before he was hired last August.

Peter Brown, Vega-Sanabria's attorney, issued a statement Thursday evening saying the professor "vehemently denies any wrongdoing." Brown also detailed his client's credentials in education in South Carolina and Florida that includes a combined 30 years of educational experience at all levels.

"The boys had been through eight placements in foster care since September of 2007, including two therapeutic foster homes and one therapeutic residential treatment facility," Brown said.

He went on to say that Vega-Sanabria took in the children to keep them together because, according to Brown, DSS had considered separating them.

"At least one prior attempt to place the brothers in a pre-adoptive home had failed because of their escalating behaviors and aggression toward one another," Brown said in the statement.

The two victims were taken into the custody of Department of Social Services agents to be placed in another home.

Vega-Sanabria was given a $30,000 bond.