Jury selection began Wednesday afternoon in the case of a prominent Santa Maria businessman with ties to Solvang who is charged with multiple felony counts of lewd acts upon a child.

Hans Jorgen Kardel, 84, is charged with several counts of sexual penetration with a child under the ages of 10 and 14; aggravated sexual assault of a minor; lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14; sexual penetration by a foreign object; and attempting to dissuade a witness. 

Kardel also faces a special enhancement of allegedly committing the offenses with more than one child.

Records indicate that both children, his relatives, were under 14 years old at the time the alleged incidents began in 2005. Incidents were also reported in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Kardel was arrested and charges were filed in January 2016. A request for a criminal protective order also was filed by the victims' family against Kardel, according to court records. 

He pleaded not guilty in February 2016 and was held to stand trial last fall after a preliminary hearing. 

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He served as president of the Hejls Minde branch of the Dania Lodge of Solvang this year but no longer owns the Santa Maria company he founded, Kardel Insurance Services Inc., which is under new management.

Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede is prosecuting the case, with attorneys Catherine Swysen and Robert Sanger representing Kardel.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210