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Lesson Lost on Teacher? 3rd Sex Rap

Florida Middle School Teacher Held Without Bond After Her Third Arrest in Six Weeks

By David Schoetz, ABC News, April 29, 2008

Stephanie Ragusa flashes the same smile in all three mugshots, but there's nothing charming about the middle-school teacher's third arrest in six weeks for alleged sexual encounters with Florida teens.

Ragusa, 29, was arrested Monday in Hillsborough County when investigators saw her leaving a 16-year-old high school student's house just before 1 p.m. Authorities say Ragusa had continued having sex with the teen victim since her initial March 13 arrest for one relationship and her April 15 arrest for another.

Ragusa was in court today to face two felony counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. A judge ruled that she will be held without bond as the court begins to wade through more than 10 charges related to alleged sexual activity with minors.

Ragusa had no comment for local reporters as she was lead into the courtroom. Attempts by ABC News to reach her attorney, Robert Herce, were unsuccessful.

The teenager connected to Monday's arrest was one of the two boys she had already been accused of having sex with, according to Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Unclear was which of the two teens was involved in Monday's incident.

Ragusa was originally arrested in mid-March and charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious battery for what sheriff's deputies described to ABC News at the time as a consensual relationship with a 14-year-old student.

That affair, according to the sheriff's office, lasted from January through May 2007, and included intercourse and oral sex. Some of the alleged encounters took place in her apartment, others in her Lexus.

The boy in that case identified Ragusa as having a distinctive pair of tattoos on "either side of the groin area." A school resource officer first asked the boy about the rumors and then detectives investigated. They had the boy call Ragusa under police direction and she "admitted to the interaction," the sheriff's office said at the time.

After the first arrest, a judge set Ragusa's bond at $12,500, which she posted after she spent a weekend in jail. She made no public comment upon her release.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said at the time of the arrest that they were investigating other possible victims.

"As the result of her first arrest, we seized her phone and through the phone records, found a second victim," Carter said.

Authorities interviewed the second victim, who admitted to detectives that he had an ongoing relationship with Ragusa that began in February 2007 when he was a student of hers at Davidsen Middle School. "She provided him with alcohol, she provided contraceptives," Carter said, adding that he admitted to having sex with Ragusa more than 20 times during their yearlong affair that overlapped with the first victim's relationship.

Like the first victim, the second teen was able to identify Ragusa in part through her tattoos. Authorities arrested Ragusa for a second time on April 15 and charged her with lewd and lascivious conduct and two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, according to the sheriff's office arrest report. She was released on a $22,500 bond.

Detectives were following up with one of the two victims yesterday when they saw Ragusa leaving the victim's residence and arrested her on the spot, charging her with two more counts of unlawful sex with a minor.

According to court documents cited by the Tampa Tribune, Ragusa continued to contact the student victim after her April 15 arrest and went to his house Monday to discuss the criminal case against her when the two went into a bedroom to have sex.

After the March arrest, school administrators in Hillsborough County put Ragusa on paid leave and letters were sent home to parents assuring the safety of their children and the quality of their educators.

It was revealed that Ragusa lied in her job application, failing to acknowledge a previous driving under the influence charge. She was also reprimanded by the school district for using profanity in front of students and sent to anger management classes and then transferred from one school to another for "physically restraining" a female student who threatened to walk out of her classroom.

"I can't imagine any scenario where we would invite her back," Linda Cobbe, Hillsborough County district spokesman, told ABC News. "The principal at her current school was already planning on not offering her a job again."

The Hillsborough County school district has earned a rather dubious reputation for female teachers engaging in sexual relationships with students, including the high-profile affair between Debra Lafave and a 14-year-old. Lafave is serving three years of house arrest and seven years' probation after entering a guilty plea.

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