Years before Earl Venton Buchanan was arrested on child pornography charges last week, authorities investigated several claims of child molestation.

Authorities have identified eight to 11 children who are believed to have been molested by Buchanan, 62, and some -- probably three or four -- were named in reports to child protection agencies in Southern California, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Police in Banning were alert to Buchanan on Nov. 20, 2000, when a parent came to the station to accuse him of molesting two girls, ages 11 and 12, said Banning Deputy Chief Leonard Purvis.

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Buchanan allegedly molested the girls at a home in Yucaipa, Purvis said. Investigators turned over the report to the San Bernardino County sheriffs station in Yucaipa because the alleged incident happened there, Purvis said.

A second report on May 1, 2001, accused Buchanan of molesting a 14-year-old girl who stayed with Buchanan at his Bloomington home, Purvis said. That report was also forwarded to the Sheriffs Department, Purvis said.

Sheriff's officials said Wednesday they were investigating how any reports to their department were handled.

Its difficult to get filings in a lot of [molestation] cases because there's no physical evidence, said sheriffs Sgt. Rick Ells.

The Riverside County Department of Child Protective Services fielded four complaints about Buchanan as early as 2000, said county spokesman Ray Smith. He said investigators either concluded the children were safe in their homes or that the allegations could not be substantiated. He said the children denied the allegations.

One of Buchanan's neighbors in Bloomington, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, said she grew suspicious of the number of children that always seemed to be at his house. She said she called authorities on a toll-free hot line, but they never got back to her.

"We were aware of this and no one seemed to care," said the woman, who did not want to be identified because she was concerned Buchanan could be released on bail.

Cathy Cimbalo, director of the San Bernardino County Department of Children's Services, declined to say if her office fielded complaints about Buchanan, but added that complaints that do not involve a parent or caregiver are referred to law enforcement agencies.

Buchanan was arrested July 3 after returning from Mexico in a 1992 Ford Econoline van, with a 5-year-old Riverside County boy in his lap, authorities said. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of transporting child pornography and was being held at Imperial County Jail in El Centro. He has not been charged with molestation.

Buchanan's court-appointed attorney, Stephen Peterson, declined to discuss the case Wednesday.

Buchanan was raised in Prescott, Ark., and Long Beach and owned an electrical and sheet-metal contracting business, according to Winford Buchanan of Las Vegas, who identified himself as the suspect's estranged older brother.

Winford Buchanan said his younger brother rented homes in Banning and invited his tenants' children to his own home in Bloomington, where the parents left them unsupervised. But the older brother said he never witnessed any abuse.

Border inspectors in Calexico, about 120 miles east of San Diego, said they seized a videotape that appeared to show Buchanan fondling a boy who looked as if he was "sleeping or heavily sedated." It was unclear if the boy on the tape was also the boy in the van.

When investigators asked Buchanan if he was the person fondling the boy on the tape, he responded, "Yeah," according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. He paused, then added, "That's something else. I don't want to talk about it," according t the complaint.

Authorities said Buchanan rented homes to low-income tenants, won their parents' trust and showered the children with trips to Disneyland and the movies. One received clothing, a dirt bike and video games.

Some of the families Buchanan rented to were from Mexico and in the country illegally, said Ells, adding that on a few occasions Buchanan had threatened parents with deportation.

"They saw him as sort of an authority figure," Ells said. "Compared to the victims' families, he was very affluent."

A search of Buchanan's home last week found a warehouse on the property that contained a bedroom and an adjoining children's room stocked with video games and DVDs of children's movies. Several U.S. birth certificates of children were also found, possibly used to take them to Mexico.