Deputy, Social Worker Accused of Sexual Assaults on Inmates at Santa Barbara County Jail

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The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office arrested a deputy and a jail social worker Friday on allegations of sexually assaulting inmates at the county’s Main Jail.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Gabriel Castro, 47, of Ventura, pictured in a photo released by the agency following his arrest on Feb. 21, 2020.

Deputy Gabriel Castro, 47, of Ventura, surrendered to detectives in Ventura County and was booked on suspicion of forcible sexual penetration with a foreign object, as well as sexual activity with a person in custody, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement.

Salvador Vargas, 34, a social worker who served as a discharge planner at the jail, was arrested at his Santa Maria home, officials said. He faces charges of forcible oral copulation and sexual activity with a person in custody.

The investigation began in August of 2018 after an inmate reported abuse, officials said.

“In the months that followed, the Sheriff’s Office initiated an internal investigation of two employees that subsequently developed into two separate criminal investigations,” according to the sheriff’s office statement. “The investigations were for criminal activities that occurred around the same time with intertwined witnesses.”

Jail social worker Salvador Vargas, 34, of Santa Maria, pictured in a photo released by the agency following his arrest on Feb. 21, 2020.
Jail social worker Salvador Vargas, 34, of Santa Maria, pictured in a photo released by the agency following his arrest on Feb. 21, 2020.

Castro and Vargas were both placed on administrative leave in September of 2018, officials said.

Detectives submitted their findings to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, authorities said. Prosecutors filed charges and issues arrest warrants for both suspects on Thursday.

Ventura County booking records described Castro’s occupation as “senior custody deputy.”

Santa Barbara County booking records listed Vargas’ occupation as “confidential.”

Bail for both was set at $100,000 pending their initial court appearances.

“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 department statement 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 was urged to contact the department’s Criminal Investigations Division at 805-681-4150.

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