Prosecutors say Robert Theodore lavished his young athletes with attention, bought them expensive gifts and invited them to sleepovers at his homes in Woodridge and Colorado.
The onetime track coach at Lisle High School was jailed Wednesday on charges he molested a teenage boy at his most recent job as a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness in Warrenville.
Theodore, 60, of the 3800 block of Hagen Court in Woodridge, is accused of inappropriately touching the boy -- then between the ages of 16 and 18 -- on several occasions. His arrest Tuesday was the culmination of a seven-month investigation launched after the parents of another Naperville boy, 15, came forward with separate concerns about possible inappropriate contact, authorities said.
Theodore pleaded guilty in a 1986 case to the attempted molestation of a 12-year-old boy he mentored through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Scottsdale, Ariz., DuPage County prosecutor Ann Celine O'Hallaren said. But she said he failed to disclose that conviction after moving to Illinois in 1999 and taking a job as track coach at Lisle High School. The school fired him after complaints about his interaction with students led officials to look deeper into his background, according to prosecutors.
Since 2001, Theodore has been on the coaching staff at Lifetime Fitness, which describes him online as a "highly competitive runner, coach and official at all levels." Authorities said he also helps coordinate track meets in Naperville.
According to O'Hallaren, Theodore began abusing the latest victim, now 20, after he "staked out" a track meet and approached the teen about additional training. She said Theodore eventually invited the boy to sleepovers at his home in Woodridge, had the child give him massages, bought him gifts worth more than $1,000, and exposed himself during a trip to his other home in Colorado.
"He has taken multiple boys there under the ruse of altitude training," O'Hallaren said in court, adding he trains several children from Naperville.
In one instance, O'Hallaren said Theodore abused the boy while in a hot tub at Lifetime Fitness, 28141 Diehl Road.
The investigation led police to get a wiretapping warrant to listen in on phone calls between Theodore and the boy. In two calls, O'Hallaren said Theodore confessed he was "sexually attracted" to the victim and admitted having sexual relationships with him and other boys.
O'Hallaren said police also seized a computer from Theodore's home and are looking for pornography.
Lisle Unit District 202 officials did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday, and Lifetime Fitness spokeswoman Karen Leinberger declined to comment on Theodore's arrest or criminal past.
"As a matter of course, Lifetime never comments on legal matters," she said.
Theodore faces three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse punishable by up to seven years in prison.
State's Attorney Robert Berlin called the allegations "sickening."
"The relationship between an athlete and their trainer is built on trust and a desire to bring out the best in the athlete. It is alleged that through his actions, Mr. Theodore cared nothing about his young victim and destroyed the trust his victim had placed in him to satisfy his own despicable desires," Berlin said. "I would like to thank this young man for having the courage to come forward."
Defense attorney Tim Martin said Theodore, who has lived in the area most of his life, maintains he is innocent.
"He's been an outstanding member of the community for over 40 years, and he is expecting to be fully exonerated from all charges relating to these alleged incidents," Martin said.
Judge Elizabeth Sexton set bail at $250,000 and ordered Theodore to surrender his passport and stay away from children if he is released from the county jail. He also will be monitored by GPS tracking.
Prosecutors said Theodore was released on a $25,000 cash bond shortly after his court appearance Wednesday and is set to appear Oct. 15 before Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.
Theodore did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Authorities said anyone with further information on the case should contact Naperville police investigator Richard Wistocki at (630) 305-5384 or the state's attorney's office at (630) 407-8000.
Lisle police Watch Cmdr. Ron Wilke said the department is aware of Theodore's arrest but has no open cases involving students at Lisle High School.
"Obviously, if any victims came forward, we would look into that," he said.