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Two Santa Barbara Co. Jail employees suspected of sex crimes against inmates

Salvador Vargas and Gabriel Castro.JPG
Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-21 20:21:05-05

Two Santa Barbara County County Sheriff's Office employees were arrested Friday on suspicion of committing sex crimes against inmates at the Main Jail.

Sheriff's officials say investigations into the two men began in August 2018 after a report from an inmate.

Salvadaor Vargas, 34, of Santa Maria was arrested on suspicion of forcible oral copulation and sexual activity with a person in custody.

Gabriel Castro, 47, of Ventura was arrested on suspicion of forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object and sexual activity with a person in custody.

Both men were booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $100,000 each.

According to the sheriff's office, Vargas was hired as a social worker in April 2018 and worked at the Main Jail as a discharge planner. Castro was reportedly hired in July 2002 and worked as a custody deputy.

Officials say the two men have been on administrative leave since September 2018. Sheriff's officials explain the investigations into the men's alleged conduct required the identification of an extensive list of possible witnesses and potential victims, and some of the inmates they planned to interview had been transferred to other custody facilities across the state.

The investigations were reportedly turned over to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office in September for review. Charges were filed and arrest warrants were issued this week.

"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," the sheriff's office said in a statement released Friday. "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 related to these investigations is urged to contact the Sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division at (805) 681-4150.