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Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The famed Karolyi Ranch, where USA Gymnastics trains its top female athletes, is connected to a sexual abuse investigation by the Texas Rangers, IndyStar has learned.
The Rangers confirmed Wednesday that they are conducting a criminal investigation of former USA Gymnastics team physician Dr. Larry Nassar.
A source familiar with the case told IndyStar that Texas investigators went to the training facility in November. Gary Jewell, attorney for owners Bela and Martha Karolyi, confirmed that the Rangers showed up at the ranch. He said he doesn't think they took any documents.
Jewell and USA Gymnastics officials said they cooperated fully.
The Rangers are at least the third law enforcement agency to launch criminal investigations of the Michigan osteopathic physician in the wake of an IndyStar report about alleged sexual abuse of minors in his care.
The Michigan attorney general charged Nassar in November with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13. In December, federal prosecutors charged him with receipt, attempted receipt and possession of child pornography. The federal charges were filed after investigators discovered more than 37,000 images of child pornography on computer devices during a search of Nassar's property.
Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety told IndyStar the Texas Rangers investigation is not related to the FBI investigation.
"The Rangers are working one sexual assault, and they've actually titled the offense 'continuous sexual assault of a juvenile' out of the USA Gymnastics investigation," Cummings told IndyStar. "There is only one case they are investigating here in Texas."
The ranch, owned by former U.S. Olympic team coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, enjoys iconic status within the sport of gymnastics. In 2001, it was designated as the official U.S. Women's National Team Training Center.
Its reputation has suffered at times amid allegations of abusive training methods, and due to a series of recent lawsuits related to Nassar, including a new one filed this week.
The Rangers' visit to the ranch was "very polite, according to Jewell, the Karolyis' attorney. "They basically toured the property and took photographs and that was that," Jewell said. "All they wanted to do was see specific areas of the training facilities."
USA Gymnastics confirmed in a written statement that it "received an inquiry from Texas law enforcement and cooperated fully."
"Security measures are in place at the Ranch, and USA Gymnastics has staff onsite," the statement said.
USA Gymnastics announced in July that it had agreed to purchase the Karolyis' training camp located in a remote part of Texas, about 70 miles north of Houston. The sale has not been finalized, but USA Gymnastics said it "has been and continues to work on closing terms with the Karolyis."
Nassar, who is in jail in Michigan, also is accused in six civil lawsuits of molesting young, female gymnasts, two of which describe alleged abuse at the Karolyi Ranch.
Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics is named in five of those lawsuits and is accused of failing to properly supervise Nassar and children in the organization's care.
The latest civil suit was filed this week in Superior Court of Sacramento County, California. It claims a former member of the U.S. national team, listed in the lawsuit anonymously, was sexually assaulted and abused by Nassar while she was training at the Karolyi Ranch and other sites. USA Gymnastics said it had not seen the new lawsuit and had no comment.
The new lawsuit describes the Karolyi Ranch as a "toxic environment, perfectly suited for (Nassar) to systematically sexually abuse the minor children, including the Plaintiff, who were captive at the ranch." It also alleges that Bela and Martha Karolyi physically and verbally abused child gymnasts, depriving them of food, water and communication with their parents.
Nassar would not report the Karolyis' abuse and "in turn, (the Karolyis) turned a blind-eye to the sexual abuse being perpetrated by (Nassar)," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also alleges that USA Gymnastics ignored Nassar's abuse so it wouldn't face public and legal scrutiny and "could maintain a false facade of high moral repute, and could maintain and grow financial support for its programs."
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