Sexual allegations against coach rock Montreal’s National Circus School

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WATCH: The city’s gymnastics and circus worlds are reeling after a teacher at Montreal’s National Circus school was arrested. As Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports, the man faces charges relating to child luring and enticement – and police say there could be more victims – May 10, 2018

Montreal police have arrested a coach at the city’s elite National Circus School, accusing him of various charges related to sexual predatory behaviour involving a minor.

Marcelo Berti Marques, 44, was charged late Thursday afternoon with enticing a minor with sexual intentions, making explicit sexual material available to a minor, sexual luring and possessing child pornography.

“These accusations are serious that have minimum sentences attached to them,” said defence lawyer Michael Morena. “For anybody who is not a usual member acting in the justice system, you go from one day having a normal life to the next day having charges against you. It’s shocking.”

The mother of the alleged victim has spoken extensively with Global News.

She said her son started attending the National Circus School in September 2016. The boy was 13 at the time.

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When he was six, her son saw his first Cirque de Soleil show and fell in love with the idea of being an acrobat. From that age on, he dedicated himself to pursuing gymnastics and dance, hoping to attend the country’s most prestigious circus school.

“He was training more than 30 hours a week from that age,” the mother said.

Her son went through a rigorous audition process to secure a spot at the competitive school, she said.

The mother said when her son first started at the school, he was a fun, positive and innocent teenager. She said what her son didn’t realize was that he was entering a highly competitive and toxic environment.

“Teachers constantly told him he was fat and lazy,” the mother said. “He became very depressed.”

She said her son eventually entered into a suicide pact with another student — and she claims the school didn’t want to engage in any dialogue with her concerning her son’s depression.

“He was truly suffering from suicidal depression. He had started cutting himself,” she said.

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The mother pulled her son from the school in April 2017.

“The school was not helpful,” she said. “They offered no help to him and weren’t interested in keeping him there.”

‘My son was a very easy target’

She claims Berti Marques began texting her son through Facebook Messenger a few months later.

The coach is from Brazil and only started at the school in August 2016.

In June 2017, she said he started asking her son how was he was doing and why he had left the school.

“He was writing things to him like ‘you are so talented,'” she said. “My son was a very easy target.”

Global News has viewed the alleged texting exchange between the boy and Berti Marques over the course of several months.

The text messages between the coach and teenager became sexually explicit. Submitted

At first, the texts were extremely generic. Berti Marques frequently flattered him, telling him he was tall, and handsome.

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In April 2018, the texts started become more sexual in nature. The texts we read suggest the coach asked the boy about his sexual preferences and about any previous sexual relationships.

The texts then became sexually explicit, with the man allegedly exposing himself and asking the boy to masturbate on video conference.

The boy became overwhelmed and informed his mother, who went to police.

The mother told Global News the boy is devastated, confused, and extremely scared — but she said he had the courage to go forward to police because he hopes to protect other students.

The school refused to comment on the allegations.

Montreal police looking for potential victims

Montreal police say there could be more potential victims.

They say Berti Marques is six feet tall and weighs 149 pounds. He speaks French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Police are asking any potential victims or anyone with information can contact them by calling 911 or by visiting their local police station.

Berti Marques is due back in court for a bail hearing Friday morning.

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