Ed Torres, a retired Santa Barbara County probation officer who was also a championship-winning basketball coach in Santa Maria, has accepted a plea deal and will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison for embezzling $635,000 from the county probation officers' association.
Torres, 67, was arrested in July of 2020 and charged after allegedly diverting funds from the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officers Association into his personal bank account between Jan. 1, 2009 and June 30, 2019.
According to District Attorney John Savrnoch's office, Torres, an Orcutt resident who spent more than 30 years as a probation officer in Santa Barbara County, also admitted to an enhancement that the theft exceeded $500,000 and admitted to aggravating factors that the crime occurred while "occupying a position of leadership, that he took advantage of a position of trust and that the crime involved a taking of great monetary value."
Torres also pled guilty in August 2022 to eight counts of filing false tax returns for years 2012-2019.
He is scheduled to return to court on July 6 for sentencing, at which time he will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison for the theft of public funds and tax charges, and be ordered to pay restitution to the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officers Association and the California Franchise Tax Board in an amount to be determined at a hearing on that date, the district attorney's office said.
Torres was arrested and charged in July of 2020 after a year-long investigation by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations.
He was employed by the Santa Barbara County Probation Department as a deputy probation officer from 1986 to July 2019, when he retired.
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The investigation began in July 2019 after then-chief probation officer Tanja Heitman alerted then-District Attorney Joyce Dudley to the possibility of fraud.
The investigation revealed that Torres forged the signature of Tara Presley on association checks, which take two signatures to clear. Presley, who left the association in 2010, was the only other person required to sign checks.
The SBCPPOA bank account was being funded by union dues taken out of each member’s paycheck by the County of Santa Barbara and then directly deposited by the county into the account.
The District Attorney's office said the total amount Torres embezzled from the SBCPPOA from 2009 to 2019 was approximately $635,000.
The District Attorney’s office is required to report the conviction of the theft of public funds charge to the county’s Employees’ Retirement System, which will proceed with an administrative action to have Torres forfeit his retirement benefits from the County of Santa Barbara earned or accrued from January 2009 to June 30, 2019.
Torres won multiple state championships while serving as the head coach of the girls basketball program at St. Joseph High School. He also had a successful run coaching the St. Joseph boys program, guiding the Knights to two sectional divisional championships.
In all, he coached at St. Joseph for 27 combined seasons in both boys and girls basketball and won seven CIF Southern Section championships and the two CIF state titles in girls basketball. He also coached at Allan Hancock College and was an assistant coach at Orcutt Academy High School at the time of his arrest.