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Twenty-eight years ago, Boy Scouts in Petaluma's Troop No. 74 came forward with allegations that their assistant scoutmaster had molested them outside Scout meetings, during rides home in his car and on a camping trip.

Local Scout leaders looked into the claims against Richard P. Wargo, a 47-year-old pilot. After finding they had merit, Wargo was kicked out of Scouting and his case was forwarded to county Child Protective Services and Petaluma police for a criminal investigation.

But Wargo was never prosecuted for the misconduct said to have occurred between 1982 and 1984.

Instead, he went on to molest other Sonoma County children in 1989 and was sentenced to prison after being convicted of two counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14.

David Rice, the former Troop 74 scoutmaster who reported Wargo, said the children could have been saved from the accused pedophile if he had been behind bars.

"The police failed to follow through as they promised they would," said Rice, recalling the incident in a phone interview Friday. "Nothing ever happened."

The episode was documented in confidential Boy Scout files released this week by an Oregon court. The files, which chronicle sex-abuse allegations against 1,200 Scout leaders across the United States, detail allegations against Wargo and five other North Coast men accused of molestation or other crimes against children, primarily young boys, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

The documents, known informally within the Boy Scouts as the "perversion files," were designed to flag pedophiles and prevent them from participating in Scouting activities. The dossiers contain a mixture of unsubstantiated allegations and documented abuses laid out in official letters, handwritten notes, court records and yellowed newspaper clippings.

They showed that in some cases, allegations were covered up to avoid any public scandal or went unreported to local authorities.

On the North Coast, at least two former assistant scoutmasters later were charged with unrelated sex crimes and one admitted sex offender tried to re-enter Scouting in a different city.

Others were reported to authorities and sent to jail.

Critics have said greater transparency on the part of Boy Scouts could have prevented some child abuse. And many Scouting supporters said measures adopted since then ensure that the institution is safe today.

In Wargo's case, allegations of child molestation surfaced in 1984, when the parents of several Scouts approached Scout leaders.

According to the just-released documents, Wargo fondled one boy outside troop meetings repeatedly between 1982 and 1984, kissing him on the cheek each time and telling him, "I love you."

Another boy alleged Wargo made him sit on his lap during a ride home from a meeting. The boy said Wargo touched his genitals and growled when the boy got in his car.

Yet another boy said Wargo invited him on a camping trip and molested him when they were alone inside Wargo's tent.

When four boys came forward with similar stories, then-Scoutmaster Rice said he notified the Scouts' regional executive at the Redwood Empire Council, who told him to report the matter to county Child Protective Services.

Rice said he notified CPS and was told by welfare workers to alert Petaluma police, which he also did. But after reporting the allegations to a sergeant there, nothing happened, he said.

Wargo was asked to resign when he showed up unexpectedly at a troop meeting after the allegations surfaced, Rice said.

Rice said Wargo insisted it was a misunderstanding but wrote a resignation letter anyway and was removed from the troop's roster.

"I had to tell him he was kicked out," Rice said. "This was a little upsetting to Scouts in the troop. They thought they were safe and the guy was gone and he showed up at a troop meeting."

In 1994, a decade after he resigned from the Boy Scouts, Wargo was convicted of child molestation in an unrelated case. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Reached at his home in Cherokee Village, Ark., on Friday, Wargo declined to discuss details of the case.

"That situation is over," he said. "I'm happy to forget about it."

Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said he was unaware of the 28-year-old case. He requested a record for Wargo that exists in an off-site document storage facility to find out how it was resolved.

"We've asked for the record," Lyons said. "I don't know any details right now."

Files containing other allegations on North Coast Scout volunteers date back to the 1960s.

Mark Verloop, an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 123 in Santa Rosa, resigned in 1969 after a Scout in a different troop said the man fondled him at a park. Verloop is alleged to have paid the boy a dollar and made him promise, on "Scout's honor," not to discuss the incident with his parents. In his resignation letter to then-regional Scout executive Harold J. Alexander, Verloop admitted he made a "serious mistake."

There is no record in the Boy Scout files that Verloop was ever reported to the authorities. Two years later, he was arrested on child sex charges stemming from his work as a bus driver, according to news clippings. He was arrested on similar charges again in 1973.

Another Santa Rosa case went back even further.

A former Sonoma-Mendocino district Scout executive, Samuel J. Withrow, was convicted of child molestation involving a 15-year-old boy in 1967, three years after he resigned from the Scouts for "financial reasons." His six-month jail sentence was suspended, according to court documents.

A year later, Withrow attempted to become a volunteer again with the Scouts' Order of the Arrow near Sacramento. His application was rejected after Scouting officials became aware of the conviction. But it was clear they were relieved the public had not learned they had a pedophile in their midst.

"Fortunately for the scouting movement the general public are (sic) not aware of what Withrow has done," Alexander wrote in a 1968 letter to the director of registration for the Boy Scouts of America in New Jersey.

Two of the cases involve alleged acts by Scout leaders outside of their troops:

-- Joseph Boudreaux, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 139 in Santa Rosa, was forced to resign in 1965 after being charged with two counts of child molestation. Handwritten notes in the file indicate he was accused of molesting two girls, at least one under the age of 14.

-- William F. Elton, whose real name is William C. Garaux, was an assistant scoutmaster in Philo's Troop 51. He was kicked out in 1969 after he was arrested on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to a newspaper clipping attached to his file. An Anderson Valley high school principal reported seeing Garaux pick up two girls, age 13 and 14, from school. He was accused of taking them to Hendy Woods and supplying them with drugs.

In one case, the Boy Scouts allowed a Ukiah Scout leader arrested on suspicion of molesting a boy in 1982 to remain with the troop after the charges were dropped. Richard H. Williams was kicked out in 1986 after he pleaded guilty to a second sex-abuse case that occurred at a Ukiah-area school where Williams was a teaching assistant.

Troop 75 Scoutmaster Shorty Silver, who was friends with Williams, actually testified as a character witness in the 1982 case. Silver, reached by phone Friday, said Williams was a "good kid."

"He never showed any interest in the young boys," Silver said.

Silver said he did not know the name of the boy in the 1982 case when he vouched for Williams. Williams told him the boy was a member of his church youth group, Silver said. However, the boy accusing Williams was a member of Troop 75, according to Boy Scout files.

"If I had known this I would have gotten rid of him," Silver said. "I wouldn't have gone to court to be a witness for him. It's horrible."

Thomas Powell, the Scout executive of the Sonoma-Mendocino Area Council — which later became the Redwood Empire Council — began looking into the 1982 case when a concerned mother contacted him in June 1985. He called the county mental health department, the former Scout executive, and others who had direct contact with Williams.

But none of the people Powell interviewed raised concerns about Williams.

Powell was extremely thorough in his investigation of Williams, said Clint Wilson, a Sonoma County businessman and longtime Boy Scouts supporter who served as the council president at the time.

Wilson said he and other council leaders told the police about every alleged case that was reported to them.

"We never tried to play the role of a prosecutor," Wilson said. "Tom, especially, was a very good law-abiding guy. He would call the police."

In early December 1985, Powell received a phone call notifying him that Williams had been arrested on suspicion of molesting a 13-year-old boy at a Ukiah school. With that, Powell began the formal procedure to eliminate the Eagle Scout from the organization.

In March 1986, Williams pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of soliciting a lewd act, according to court records.

(News Researcher Janet Balicki contributed to this story.)

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