Celebration High School coach accused of sexual misconduct sentenced to probation

A former Celebration High School coach accused by former students of sexual misconduct was sentenced to probation as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, who said they opted for the deal to avoid putting the victims through a traumatic trial.

Samuel Figueroa, 43, accepted a sentence of 10 years probation in court Monday, in exchange for pleading no contest to child abuse and two charges of unlawful use of a communication device. The original list of charges ranged from molestation and soliciting sexual conduct by an authority figure to sexual assault of a minor, but most of those were dropped months before the plea deal was offered.

Court records indicate he will not be required to register as a sex offender, but is banned from living within 1,000 feet from where children congregate.

The investigation into Figueroa began after a victim’s parent came forward, leading others to report him as well. One female student told Osceola County deputy sheriffs that he would withhold hall passes unless students took sexually explicit photos of themselves. Others said he would make lewd remarks about them, and at least one victim accused him of grabbing her in a sexual manner. According to an affidavit, investigators said video surveillance captured Figueroa following girls into storage closets and waiting for them outside a girl’s restroom while the teens took photos on his phone.

The victims ranged from 15 to 18 years old, investigators said, with the incidents occurring at least since 2021. Figueroa, who coached baseball along with working as a student services coordinator at Celebration High since 2018, resigned ahead of his arrest.

Osceola County School District spokesperson Dana Schafer said in April that an internal review would be conducted following the criminal investigation “to look at any employment issues that need addressing.” It’s not clear whether such a review has taken place, and Schafer did not immediately respond to an email seeking an update.

Figueroa’s arrest was announced at an April 6 press conference by Sheriff Marcos López. López has not commented publicly on the sentencing decision.

“He has abused his power, he’s abused his position and is a sexual deviant who was lurking in our schools,” the sheriff said at the time. “Thanks to the brave students for coming forward and exposing this guy for the monster that he is.”

A spokesperson for State Attorney Andrew Bain also did not respond to a request for comment. But in a statement sent to Law & Crime, his office said prosecutors decided on a plea agreement because “the victims and their families wanted to avoid going through depositions and trials.”

“The plea agreement allows the victims to avoid reliving the trauma while ensuring the defendant is listed as a convicted child abuser who is prohibited from visiting schools and other places where children congregate,” the statement said, according to the outlet. “… If the defendant violates the terms of his probation he will be subjected to prison.”

Figueroa’s sentence comes two months after another Osceola school official was sentenced to probation after being accused of sex crimes against minors. In September, former Harmony Middle School dean Bradley Linville pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious molestation in exchange for eight years probation. He was accused in 2021 of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old in his office on multiple occasions.

Unlike Figueroa, who wasn’t convicted of a sex crime, Linville is a designated sex offender.