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Friday, February 14, 2014

San Jose Fire Department Firefighter reportedly used the Internet contacted a male child victim #CaFire

San Jose: Firefighter's arrest on drug and sex offenses shocks colleagues, community


By Robert Salonga and Mark Gomez
Mercury News

SAN JOSE -- The arrest of the man who recently became the primary link between residents and the San Jose Fire Department has sent shock waves through both communities after authorities say an undercover operation revealed he was furnishing drugs to and having sex with a teen.
Agents from the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team -- a state-run squad assembled from local police agencies -- went to the fire administration headquarters Thursday and quietly took 53-year-old Mario Enrique Cuestas into custody before searching his office for evidence.
Friday morning, at Cuestas' San Lorenzo home where he lives with his parents, his father, Mario Sr., said police came to his front door Thursday to inform him about the arrest and prospective charges.
"It came as a shock to us," the father said.
He said little else beyond insisting that he did not believe the allegations against his son, who has lived with him and his wife at the well-kept, single-story suburban home for about a year.
News of the arrest gradually made the department rounds late Thursday, leaving many feeling shock, anger and disappointment, Deputy Chief Robert Sapien said.
"The charges and the arrest are shocking to me and to all firefighters right now. Everyone feels horrible about that," said Sapien, who is president of the firefighters' union. "To have that compounded by having a firefighter associated with those crimes is difficult. Clearly the behaviors are not in line with what we're here to do, which is to help people."
Cuestas has been with the fire department about 20 years. He took on highly visible assignments, like organizing Sept. 11, 2001 commemorations, and in 2007 he helped lead an open-air drill at San Jose's Municipal Stadium to help first responders practice in a mock bio-terrorist attack.
According to his Facebook page, Cuestas has been a church singer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, and he sang the national anthem at a multitude of city events over the years.
In a 2007 photo of Mario Cuestas (foreground) he directs the crowd attending an open-air drill at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, in an exercise to
In a 2007 photo of Mario Cuestas (foreground) he directs the crowd attending an open-air drill at San Jose's Municipal Stadium, in an exercise to help first responders practice in a mock bio-terrorist attack. Cuestas is being charged with sex crimes against minors and supplying drugs to minors. (Len Vaughn-Lahman/Mercury News)
At the time of his arrest, Cuestas was settling into a new role in directing the department's office of public outreach, which made him firefighters' liaison to schools and community and church organizations. Cuestas had been in that new role for two or three months, according to San Jose Fire Capt. Cleo Doss, a department spokesman.
Before that, Cuestas spent time as fire inspection investigator and spent years as a fire engineer and driver.
"As a fire organization, we take this job very seriously," Doss said. "We take pride in what we do. We love what we do. A big part of what we do has to do with trust. For something like this to take place, it really breaks the trust of the community."
Longtime San Jose firefighter Mario Enrique Cuestas was arrested at the station where he worked Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014,  accused of  afternoon and is
Longtime San Jose firefighter Mario Enrique Cuestas was arrested at the station where he worked Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, accused of afternoon and is facing drug and sex crime charges involving minors, according to the California Department of Justice. ( CA Dept. of Justice )
Sapien said the behavior described in the criminal accusations "seems out of character for the person that we know."
"I have confidence in the criminal justice system," Sapien said. "The bottom line is the behaviors we saw described in the charges are completely unacceptable. We never want that kind of behavior related to anyone with the fire department."
Sapien said he does not expect the firefighters' union to provide financial support for Cuestas' criminal defense.
"What we represent is issues arising in natural scope of someone in their job," Sapien said.
Cuestas, who also has a listed residence in San Antonio, Tx., was booked into the Santa Clara County jail and is being held without bail on suspicion of possessing and selling methamphetamine, providing narcotics to minors, child molestation and oral copulation with a minor. He is being held in protective custody and declined a jail interview.
A drug-related tip to the Santa Clara task force -- which is overseen by the California Department of Justice -- sparked a two-month investigation that ended with Cuestas' arrest, DOJ spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said.
She added that Cuestas reportedly used the Internet contacted a victim, who is a high-school age boy living in the Bay Area. Over the course of the investigation, agents conducted an undercover sting that further implicated Cuestas, Gregory said.
After his arrest, agents searched his office at the fire department where they confiscated a computer hard drive. Gregory said they also searched his home. It was not immediately clear how he got hold of the drugs.
Cuestas is on unpaid administrative leave, Doss said.

Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25144194/san-jose-community-fire-department-shock-after-firefighters
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