Retired Santa Barbara Co. probation officer pleads guilty to felony theft charge

gavel, justice
Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 27, 2023

A retired Santa Barbara County deputy probation officer pleaded guilty on Thursday to a felony theft-of-public-funds charge, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Manuel Edward Torres, 67, pleaded guilty to embezzling roughly $635,000 of public funds from his union’s bank account, where he served as president for over 20 years. Funds stolen from the association’s bank account, the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officer Association (SBCPPOA), were union dues contributed from members’ paychecks.

Torres, who worked for the County for over 30 years, also admitted to an enhancement charge because the theft exceeded $500,000. An enhancement charge is a legal mechanism that a district attorney can apply to a felony charge. It adds additional prison time.

Torres embezzled from the SBCPPOA bank account from Jan. 1, 2009, through June 30, 2019, prosecutors said. He previously pleaded guilty in August 2022 to charges of filing false tax returns.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 6, 2023, in Santa Barbara Superior Court, where he will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison, the District Attorney’s office said. He will be ordered to pay restitution to the SBCPPOA and the California Franchise Tax Board. That amount will be determined at a hearing on the same date of Torres’ sentencing.

Charges were filed in July 2020 after a year-long investigation by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations.

The District Attorney’s investigation followed a review of Torres’ financial records by the probation department shortly after his retirement. That review uncovered potential embezzlement.

Torres, of Santa Maria, worked as a deputy probation officer from 1986 to 2019, when he retired.