Two people assigned to the Santa Barbara County Jail were arrested Friday on suspicion of suspected sex crimes committed against custody inmates, authorities said.
The arrests stem from an investigation that was launched in August 2018 following a report from an inmate. The Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation that subsequently developed into two separate criminal investigations. Both investigations were for criminal activities that occurred around the same time with intertwined witnesses, Raquel Zick, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, said in a news release.
The suspects are Salvador Vargas, 34, of Santa Maria, and Gabriel Castro, 47, of Ventura. Mr. Vargas was hired in April 2018 as a social worker and was assigned to the Main Jail as a discharge planner. Mr. Castro was hired in July 2002 and worked as a custody deputy at the main jail. Both suspects had been on administrative leave since September 2018, Ms. Zick said.
“During the investigations, detectives identified an extensive list of possible witnesses and attempted to identify additional potential victims. This follow-up required interviews of numerous inmates, some of whom had been transferred to custody facilities throughout the state,” Ms. Zick said. “The investigations for both individuals were turned over to the Office of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney in September 2019, for their review.”
The District Attorney’s Office filed charges Thursday and arrest warrants were issued for both suspects, Ms. Zick said.
Mr. Vargas was arrested at his home Friday and was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on a warrant and is charged with forcible oral copulation and sexual activity with a person in custody, both felonies. He is being held on $100,000 bail.
Mr. Castro surrendered to detectives Friday at the Ventura County Jail. He was arrested on a warrant and is charged with forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object and sexual activity with a person in custody, both felonies. He is also being held on $100,000 bail.
The identity of the victim was not disclosed.
“The Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to thoroughly investigating allegations of misconduct by employees and does not tolerate the victimization of inmates who are entrusted in our care,” Ms. Zick said. “The alleged actions of these employees violate the Core Values of the Sheriff’s Office, in addition to the law, and are intolerable.”
Anyone with information on these investigations is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division at 805-681-4150.