Did Tehachapi man know alleged sex victims were underage?

TEHACHAPI, Calif. (KBAk/KBFX) - The family of a Tehachapi man accused of having sex with two boys under 16 claims Steven Vogel was led to believe the minors were adults.

"He told me that this young man solicited him on a gay hook-up site and he was told that this young man was 18," said Bonnie MacKenzie, mother of Vogel.

Sheriff's investigators say Vogel made contact with the two boys on the social network "Jackd." Vogel allegedly made arrangements to meet the boys on separate occasions and had sex with them.

The terms of the site, "Jackd" state that users must be 18 years or older in order to register. A key issue in this case will be whether Vogel knew that the boys in this case were minors.

"Between 14 and 18, if a person essentially tricks you, it would be reasonable for you to be tricked, it's a defense," said attorney Kyle Humphrey who is not associated with the case.

And Humphrey said there may be other ways to show that Vogel, in good faith, believed that the minors were adults.

"If they've got telephone communications, e-mail communication, website communication, chat materials and everyone is coming across as over 18, that's going to be great for the defense," said Humphrey.

However court documents obtained by Eyewitness News paint a different picture. In a probable cause declaration, sheriff's investigators write that both juveniles told Vogel their true ages.

"Vogel was aware of (victim) age because his dating profile reflects he is 15 years old. (Victim) also told Vogel in person he was 15 years old," states the declaration.

The report also states that the other boy also told Vogel that he was 14 years old.

The 26-year-old Vogel is charged with three felony counts of having sex with minors and two felony counts of communicating with a minor for the purpose of having sex.

Vogel's employer is listed as Rally's Cadillac Car Dealership in Palmdale. His arrest took many in Tehachapi by surprise. Vogel is active in community issues, being a founding member and past president of the Tehachapi Anti Bullying Coalition. He also ran unsuccessfully in November 2012 for the Tehachapi Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Vogel remains in jail on $200,000 bail.