Play Spanish operator pleads guilty to indecent liberties with child

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Channel 9's cameras were in the courtroom Monday when Ricardo Mata pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent liberties with a child.

The plea was an Alford plea, meaning Mata didn't admit to the crime and maintains his innocence, but pleaded guilty to the charges.

Mata remained silent but one of his family members spoke against him.

"He abused me my entire childhood," the woman said. "I ask you, for me and all the victims named and unnamed, (for) justice today."


That woman wasn't named in this case but said she was fighting for the victims who were. The father of one of those victims spoke with Channel 9 outside the courthouse.

"A little surprised,” he said. “He (Mata) didn’t seem to have any remorse, although he did admit to his plea. Awful, no reaction. It is a little shocking, and I think he's still in denial."

Prosecutors said the two victims were 7 and 8 years old when Mata took advantage of them at an after-school program called Play Spanish.

The incidents happened at Eastover Elementary and Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Mata operated the Spanish language program across Charlotte for nearly 30 years. Prosecutors said he used lockdown drills as a distraction so he could sexually abuse at least one of the victims.

Mata was arrested last year.

"I forgive him and I pray for him,” the father of one of the victims said. “And I hope that he is never allowed to be around children again, because obviously he took advantage of his position, as an educator and as an adult human being."

Mata was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he may be deported much earlier. Mata is not a United States citizen.

No matter where he ends up, the victims said they'll be spending time healing.

"We're holding up,” the father on one victim said. “Difficult day for sure, especially my wife. My daughter is doing well. In therapy. Appears to be doing well, but it’s a long road -- very long road to recovery. A lifetime."