Army recruiter accused of sexually assaulting teen at North East Mall

A U.S. Army recruiter was in custody Monday, accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in a North East Mall parking lot.

Hurst police arrested the man Friday afternoon after a witness called police to report an apparent assault after seeing two people in a government car.

The soldier was identified as Staff Sgt. Sergio Gabriel Nava, 29, of Keller. Nava was in the Hurst Jail on Monday in lieu of $40,000 bail. He will be charged with sexual assault in the next few days, police Sgt. Craig Teague said.

Nava listed his employer as the U.S. Army, saying he worked out of the recruiting office on Boulevard 26 in North Richland Hills.

An Army sergeant who answered the phone at the office referred all questions to the Army Recruiting Battalion in Irving.

"An investigation will take place," said Len Butler, a spokesman at the Irving recruiting office. "We can't place a time on how long it will take because we need to gather all the facts."

Hurst police provided few details of the incident that led to the arrest because a juvenile is involved.

Nava was acquainted with the girl, police said.

Patrol officers received a call shortly before 5:30 p.m. Friday from a person at the mall. When officers arrived, two people were in a Dodge Avenger listed as owned by the United States, according to Hurst police reports.

Nava was arrested there, and the Avenger was towed, police said.

While assigned to the North Richland Hills office, Nava was staying in Keller, reports state. The booking report listed his wife as living in Pahokee, Fla., which is in southern Florida.

Last year, a U.S. Navy recruiter was banned from Seguin High School in Arlington after being accused of offering to pay an 18-year-old student for sexual acts. Roderick Tillar was recruiting the senior to join the Navy when he began making comments about her body, according to an e-mail sent from an Arlington police supervisor to school officials. The e-mail was obtained by the Star-Telegram through a Public Information Act request.

Police turned the case over to the Navy and did not file charges. Information on what action the Navy took was not available Monday.

Early this year, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recommended steps to strengthen oversight of recruiter "irregularities," which include sexual improprieties such as sexual harassment, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. But the report also says that the number of substantiated irregularities as a percentage of the number of individuals entering military service fell from 2006 to 2008. Substantiated cases, however, represented less than a quarter of all reported cases, the GAO said.

Staff writer Mitch Mitchell contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763