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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 26th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 52

Two Sheriff's Office employees arrested for sex offenses

By Zac Ezzone

A lengthy investigation led by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office detectives has concluded with the arrest of two department employees who worked at the county jail.

    On Feb. 21, the Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Salvador Vargas, who worked at the jail as a social worker involved with inmate discharges, and Gabriel Castro, who worked as a custody deputy. According to the department, both employees have been on administrative leave since September 2018.

    The county District Attorney’s Office charged the men with two felonies each. The office is charging Vargas with forcible oral copulation and sexual activity with a person in custody, and Castro with forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object and sexual activity with a person in custody. 

    Investigations into the alleged crimes began in August 2018 after an inmate complained to a custody deputy about Vargas and Castro.

“The investigations were for criminal activities that occurred around the same time with intertwined witnesses,” a statement from the Sheriff’s Office said.

According to court documents, inmate Elizabeth Chandler said she witnessed female inmates lifting up their shirts to flash Castro, who in exchange would reward the inmates with red licorice or pass letters for them throughout the jail. Chandler claims to have witnessed Vargas participate in similar activities.

“Chandler said Vargas only helps female inmates who were ‘willing to exchange sexual type favors for attention,’” the court document states.

Following Chandler’s complaints to a custody deputy, detectives began investigating Castro and Vargas in October 2018 and turned over their reports to the DA’s office in September 2019. The office filed charges on Feb. 20 this year.

In a court document a Sheriff’s Office detective filed that requested the arrest of Castro, the detective details the claims of an unnamed victim who said Castro sexually harassed and assaulted her while she was in jail. According to the inmate, after she was moved to an isolation cell for an unrelated disciplinary issue, Castro reached through the food tray slot and proceeded to assault her on two separate occasions.

“[The victim] said she allowed Castro to touch her because she did not want to be in isolation anymore, and she feared reprisal from him if she did not comply,” the court document states.

The victim also claims Castro inquired about her release date from jail and offered to pick her up and take her home. This led to her fear of Castro finding out where she lives, which caused her to not comply with her probation terms after being released from jail. 

In the court document requesting the arrest of Vargas, a victim claims he forced her to have oral sex with him in a pharmacy parking lot while he was driving her to a residential treatment program. 

According to the court document, Vargas suggested they wait in the car as the pharmacy was preparing a prescription for the victim. During this time, Vargas “begged and implored” the victim to perform oral sex on him, which she repeatedly declined to do until she felt like she had no other choice.

“[The victim] felt as though Vargas would not let her out of the car unless she complied, and that he would not leave until she relented,” the court document states.

Vargas agreed to a voluntary interview with investigators, during which he strongly denied all allegations and claimed to have never had any sexual contact with inmates, according to court documents. Castro declined to give a voluntary statement. Both men are in custody at the county jail, with their bail set at $100,000. 

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