Long Island karate instructor accused of sexually abusing 14-year-old girl

OAKDALE, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island karate instructor is under arrest, accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in September, and authorities fear they may be more victims.

Michael Carretto, 26, earned his black belt at Dragon Gate Martial Arts Academy on Sunrise Highway South Service Road in Oakdale, and as such, he was allowed to train younger students for free. Authorities say he inappropriately touched the female student on September 11 in his car.

The owner of the academy, Mike Iannone, stressed that the alleged incident did not happen in his studio and that Carretto was not an employee.

"I and my entire staff are appalled and concerned by the allegations made against Michael Carretto," he said. "The safety and well-being of our students is paramount, and there have always been video cameras to help ensure the protection of the students."

Special Victims Section detectives arrested Carretto just after 5 p.m. Thursday. He is charged with third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

His father, also named Mike, spoke with Eyewitness News at court and said he has a hard time believing his son did committed this crime.

"He's a good kid," he said. "I mean, he works hard. He goes to work every day. It's not something I see him doing."

He said his son has been going to the karate studio since he was 4 years old, got his black belt and has been teaching there for a while.

"He's always been a good boy," grandmother Rose Carretto said. "He's never given anybody any problems. I don't believe that this is true."

The younger Carretto worked at the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) in Smithtown, a job from which he has been suspended.

"This allegation is of great concern to DDI, as our most important priority is the safety and well-being of the children and adults we support," DDI communications director Christine Ponzio said in a statement. "Mr. Carretto was immediately suspended from his position once his arrest was made known, and his access to all of our buildings has been rescinded. As with all potential job candidates, Developmental Disabilities Institute conducted a thorough background check as required by regulations prior to his hiring, with no negative findings. We will of course be cooperating with law enforcement as they pursue their investigation."

Carretto has no criminal past. Bail was set at $3,500 and the judge issued an order of protection.

Detectives are asking anyone who might have been a victim of Carretto to contact the Special Victims Section at 631-852-6531.

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