An Oxnard man was arrested after impersonating a woman on social media in an attempt to defame her with racist ideas after she commented on a mask dispute at a Ventura coffee shop, officials said Wednesday.
Edgar Castrejon, 42, was taken into custody Tuesday on suspicion of identity theft following an investigation amid uproar over the viral social media posts, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The scheme was sparked by a COVID-19 face covering incident in June between a worker and customer at Sandbox Coffeehouse at 204. E. Thompson. Blvd., investigators said.
The exchange sparked heated social media debate, and 45-year-old Gina Bacon of Ventura was among those who shared her opinion, deputies said.
The following month, a series of racist statements were posted to social media accounts under the name Gina Bacon, as well as the name of a nonprofit she’s affiliated with. The posts gained further attention and sparked backlash against Bacon and the nonprofit, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Some responses described Bacon as the owner of the coffee house and called for the establishment to be “canceled.” However, officials say Bacon has no affiliation with the coffee shop.
Detectives also say Bacon was not behind the racist statements. The woman deleted her social media accounts over fear of hacking, and a sheriff’s investigation began.
After serving search warrants and conducting interviews, investigators determined Castrejon made fictitious accounts in the names of Bacon and the nonprofit to create defaming, racist posts.
Castrejon was arrested around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 500 block of West Gonzales Road. Inmate records show he was cited and released Thursday.
A court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 27, according to the booking records.
“Investigators would like the public to know that California Penal Code 528.5 makes it a crime for any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet website or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a misdemeanor,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “False information can both discredit individuals and harm the reputations of the victims.”