Rancho Santa Fe swim instructor accused of molesting second student; deputies asking others to come forward

Nicholas Piazza, 19, was headed to trial next week on similar allegations when he was arrested and accused of molesting another child last month


A week after a Rancho Santa Fe swim instructor was arrested and accused of molesting a 7-year-old student during lessons, sheriff’s deputies are asking other students to come forward if they think they were victimized.

(File photo)

The arrest marks the second time Nicholas Piazza, 19, has been accused of molesting a student. He was slated to start trial this week on similar allegations of molesting a swimming student when he was taken into custody on suspicion of the new allegation.

Piazza was arrested Sept. 29, a day after the 7-year-old told his mother that Piazza had touched him on two separate occasions during private lessons that month, Sgt. Howard Kluge said in a news release. The mother contacted Child Welfare Services, and that agency referred the matter to the Sheriff’s Department’s child abuse investigators.

At the time, Piazza was out of custody on $250,000 bail following accusations that he molested a boy in July 2021. The allegations in the two cases are similar.

When Piazza was arraigned Tuesday, Oct. 4, in the new case, Vista Superior Court Judge Adelaida Lopez ordered him held without bail.

According to the prosecutor, the judge noted that Piazza had been out on bail at the time of the new allegation, and that he’d been accused of similar conduct in both cases.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Isaac Jackson, said the judge also noted that Piazza had been ordered not to work with children as a condition of his bail.

Jackson said Piazza faces up to 26 years in prison if convicted of all charges in both cases.

The name of the deputy public defender assigned to represent Piazza in the new case was not immediately available.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong, who is representing Piazza in the first case, said Thursday, Oct. 6, he “felt very good about our chances for success” at the trial that was supposed to start this week. Armstrong said there’s a 13-minute video of the swimming lesson in which the alleged incident is said to have occurred in 2021, and he has watched it dozens of times.

“Nowhere on the video did I see even a shred of evidence that Nick ever touched the alleged victim in an inappropriate way,” Armstrong said. “In fact, the alleged victim high-fived Nick three different times after the swim lesson concluded, and the boy seemed very happy.”

Sheriff’s detectives are looking to talk to people whose children were coached by Piazza and who think they might be victims. The Child Abuse Unit can be reached at at (858) 285-6293.

Callers can leave anonymous tips with Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.