Local freelance photographer Zachary Warburg was arrested Tuesday following a months-long investigation which culminated with a warrant for his arrest on charges of communicating with a minor with intent to commit sex crimes or other felonies, possession of child pornography and sending harmful material to a minor with intent of sexual gratification, authorities said.
Mr. Warburg, 28, was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on a complaint warrant and is being held on $1 million bail, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
The 24-count complaint, obtained by the News-Press, includes 16 felonies and eight misdemeanor charges, according to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian, who is prosecuting the case.
The alleged offenses occurred in the spring of 2018, while some date back to 2015. The victims range in age from 11 to 17, according to the complaint. Other charges included in the complaint are attempted sexual penetration by foreign object, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, and annoying or molesting a child under 18, the complaint states.
The investigation began when a sheriff’s school resource deputy assigned to San Marcos High School was notified by a student that Mr. Warburg “was attempting inappropriate communications with her of a sexual nature,” Lt. Erik Raney, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, said in a news release.
An investigation was opened into the allegations and it was soon learned there were several other instances of suspicious, lewd and suspected criminal behavior occurring between Mr. Warburg and minor female students at local area high schools and junior high schools, as well as out of the area, Lt. Raney said.
In June 2018, the investigation was turned over to the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division.
“The investigation revealed numerous victims, and a pattern of alleged criminal behavior where Warburg contacted under-aged and minor females either in person or through various social media platforms,” Lt. Raney said. “Warburg would then solicit illegal sexual acts, or solicit or send illegal sexually explicit images. Search warrants also revealed that Warburg was in possession of child pornography.”
Detectives served the arrest warrant Tuesday. Mr. Warburg worked as a freelance photographer and had photos published for Noozhawk.
Numerous victims have been interviewed, though the sheriff’s office said there may be others who have not been contacted.
Anyone who has information about the allegations or information that may lead to the discovery of other victims is urged to call the Criminal Investigations Bureau at 681-4150.