Ex-Probation Union Leader Embezzled Thousands, Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

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An ex-probation union leader embezzled thousands of dollars and committed tax fraud during his tenure.

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On August 4, Manuel Edward Torres, 66 -- who retired as a supervising probation officer in Santa Barbara County -- visited Santa Barbara County Superior Court where he entered no contest pleas to eight counts of filing false tax returns for 2012 through 2019.

Three other charges, for not filing tax returns between 2009 and 2011, were dismissed.

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Santa Barbara County news website, Noozhawk, shared additional details about the ongoing case:

Torres, who was arrested in July 2020, has been accused of diverting $635,254 from the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officers Association into his personal bank account during 10 of his 20 years leading the organization.

He initially faced 16 felony charges, all related to allegations of crimes that law enforcement officers say occurred between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2019.

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The criminal complaint includes a sentencing enhancement for aggravated white collar crime since the felony embezzlement involved over $500,000 in funds.

Torres, who was also a popular local basketball coach, is facing additional charges for grand theft, forgery, and other miscellaneous associated crimes.

He previously coached the St. Joseph High School girls' and boys' basketball teams for 27 combined seasons. He also coached at Allan Hancock College and remains listed on the website for Orcutt Academy High School at the time of publication.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota is the head prosecutor on the case.

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In March of this year, the two legal teams battled over a preliminary injunction Cota filed to prevent Torres from selling his Santa Maria residence to help cover costs associated with his crimes.

At the time, the Santa Maria Times reported:

In a reply to Cota's motion filed on Tuesday [March 2022], Scott said the only issue in dispute is whether Torres, who does not live in the home, should be ordered to make monthly mortgage payments and that he expects Torres' wife to object to the preliminary injunction as she is the "innocent spouse" and holds equity in the property.

A provision of the law used to freeze Torres' assets states that the court "shall seek to protect the interests of any innocent third persons," including the spouse, who weren't involved in the crime.

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Per Noozhawk's report, Torres is not currently in custody and presently has a scheduled September 15 court date, with a trial date of October 6.

Local news organizations, however, noted that Torres's attorney, Michael Scott, has another upcoming trial that could push that start date. Torres is facing prison time if he receives the maximum sentence.

What do you think about well-liked, community-involved Manual Torres facing felony tax charges?

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