Plymouth man Robert Rohleder denies child sex offences
A Devon builder was a "sexual scourge" who abused 17 children as young as six over almost 20 years, a court heard.
The alleged abuse by Robert Rohleder, 54, of Mount Gould, Plymouth, drove one person to try to commit suicide, Plymouth Crown Court was told.
Rohleder denies two charges of rape, one of attempted rape and 43 of indecent assault.
He also denies 11 charges of committing gross indecency with a child and three of sexual assault.
David Evans, prosecuting, said Rohleder became "the sexual scourge of his neighbourhood".
"For too long he groped, pestered and sexually assaulted children in his neighbourhood and it has finally caught up with him," he said.
But despite being questioned by police in 1998, 2004 and 2009 it was not until 2011 that he was charged.
"One or two of these children did complain to the police at the time he committed offences against them.
"He did a good job of keeping them quiet with bribes of money, treats and sometimes the use of violence against them."
When he was arrested in September 2010 he told police the children were "mad".
But the court heard that after local newspaper reports of his arrest and first court appearance, more young women came forward via Facebook, saying they had been abused by him.
The charges cover allegations of attacks between 1988 and 2007.
The trial continues.