2017-03-16 / Community

Tanning-bed tycoon looking at 5 years

By Becca Whitnall

Gary Haw Gary Haw The Ventura County district attorney’s office says it will seek the maximum penalty for a local businessman found guilty of molesting a minor 15 years ago.

Tan LA founder Gary Haw, 54, was convicted Feb. 28 of committing lewd acts on a male employee from 2000 to 2002. The employee was 14 when the crimes began, Senior Deputy District Attorney Andrea Haney said.

The incidents happened at Haw’s Tan LA locations in Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills.

Haw’s sentencing is scheduled for March 28 before Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Worley, who presided over the Agoura man’s month-long trial in which he was found guilty of five felony counts.

“We will be asking for the aggravated term, which is five years, eight months. I don’t think that will surprise anyone,” Haney said.

Haney, the last of multiple attorneys from the DA’s office to take on the 5-year-old case, credited Haw’s victims with having the courage to face their abuser.

“It was a testament to the victims who came in and testified,” she said. “We established a rapport with these guys and let them know it was OK.”

Though the case specifically addressed crimes against one person, five additional men testified against Haw during the trial, sharing their own stories, Haney said.

“We had two people come forward from events in the early ’80s,” the prosecutor said. “When someone’s that prolific in terms of length of time he’s been doing this, it’s not uncommon for victims to come forward after that much time.”

Haney said Detective Gregory Tougas of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office did a “phenomenal job” and “left no stone unturned.”

After spending five years free on bail, Haw was taken into custody immediately following the Feb. 28 verdict.

Haw befriended and lured several teenage boys ages 12 to 19 and often from single-parent families, using the promise of cash and rides in his flashy sports cars, police said.

At the time of his arrest in late 2012, investigators said Haw would allow the boys to tan after hours and would enter the tanning room and molest the juveniles. Haw paid the boys in cash and gave them bonuses of $50 to $100, police said.

Convicted of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18 in Santa Monica in 1988, Haw was able to convince a Ventura County judge to remove him from the Megan’s Law registry in 2003—around the same time he was said to be molesting his underage employees.

The judge, Herbert Curtis III, deemed Haw to be rehabilitated.

The takeaway from this case is the importance of witnesses and their willingness to speak up, Haney said.

“Anybody who is a victim of any kind, no matter how long ago, we really encourage them to come forward and contact local law enforcement and talk to them,” she said. “They’re going to have open ears and open hearts.”

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