High-profile composer and accused child pornographer Fernando Rivas wowed the Charleston arts community for the better part of a decade with his claims of Emmy- and Grammy-winning work on "Sesame Street."
Within years of moving to town, Rivas launched a jazz program for Upper School students at Porter-Gaud. He helped an artist develop a performance for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. And he scored an S.C. Educational Television documentary on the 200-year history of The Post and Courier.
But a closer look at Rivas' resume reveals that the musician embellished some of those accolades. Rivas claimed on his own website, dismantled since his arraignment in federal court Monday, that he had won two Emmys and one Grammy.
In reality, Rivas, 59, never won an Emmy.
Rivas earned an Emmy nomination -- but never the award itself -- for his composition for "Sesame Street," according to Paul Pillitteri, communications director for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Pillitteri noted that Rivas could have earned a Regional Emmy Award at the New York chapter for his work with the show, but officials with the regional Emmys said Rivas did not earn such an award, or even a nomination.
They noted that his "Sesame Street" work would compete at the national level anyway.
Rivas' Grammy claim also takes some liberties.
Rivas co-wrote a song called "Mambo I, I, I," which Gloria Estefan performed on the "Sesame Street" album "Elmopalooza." The album, not any specific song, won a Grammy in 1999.
Neither Rivas nor his attorney,
David McCann, responded to requests for interviews Wednesday. Both appeared in federal court Monday for Rivas' arraignment on three charges -- production, transportation and possession of child pornography.
A North Charleston police report describes images of a 4-year-old girl naked and "restrained in handcuffs and other bondage-type devices" that detectives found while helping FBI agents search Rivas' home on Falling Embers Lane on April 19. Court records say that Rivas, after officers read him his rights, admitted to using handcuffs on the little girl, taking the photos and sending them to other people.
He instead entered a not guilty plea in court Monday. A judge set his bond at $300,000, and he posted the required 10 percent immediately after the hearing.
FBI agents learned about Rivas after authorities arrested someone else on child pornography charges, according to a police report. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney's Office said the proble continues to determine who also allegedly received pornographic images in connection with this case.
Rivas grew up in Miami after he and his mother fled Castro-controlled Cuba when he was 9 years old. He graduated from the Juilliard School in New York and composed music there for 27 years, specializing in the Hispanic market.
He wrote songs for "Sesame Street" and advertising jingles for major corporations. He also composed "Selena, Forever," a stage musical tribute to the young Mexican-American singer murdered in 1995.
Rivas moved to Charleston in 1998 after meeting his wife, a local woman, through a writers' critique group. He taught at Porter-Gaud School from 2002 to 2009 before leaving "due to increasing work outside of his school obligations," according to officials there.
Most recently, he worked for Disney on the music for "Handy Manny," an animated children's television show about a bilingual handyman and his talking tools.
As part of the terms of his bond, Rivas must remain on home detention with electronic monitoring. He cannot use the Internet or interact with children without an adult present who knows the charges against him.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ allysonjbird.