Youth program suspended over sexual misconduct allegations

SAN BERNARDINO – A sheriff’s department youth program is buckling under the weight of sexual misconduct allegations.

County Sheriff Rod Hoops has temporarily suspended the Explorer Scouts ride-along program after a second deputy was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a teenage girl from the program.

Anthony Benjamin, 30, of Beaumont, a deputy and Explorer supervisor in Victorville, posted $100,000 bail Thursday morning after having been arrested the previous day.

“The crime itself (was committed) while the deputy was on patrol during the ride-along,” Hoops revealed.

Hoops identified the victim as being 17 years old. Benjamin was arrested on suspicion of oral copulation with a person under 18 and sex with a foreign object with a person under 18, said Hoops.

Two weeks earlier, on April 22, Nathan Gastinueau, 30, of Redlands, was arrested for committing a lewd act with a 16-year-old female. Scheduled to be arraigned on June 27 in San Bernardino Superior Court, Gastineau’s alleged victim was also involved in another case.

Jason Anguiano, 27, of Rialto, was arrested April 25 on suspicion of having sex with the girl, whose name has not been released due to her age. Anguiano will be arraigned June 28 in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Hoops would not provide any further details of the incidents.

“I am not at liberty to say where the (Benjamin) incident took place,” Hoops said.

Benjamin, who has been with the department five years, was assigned to the Victorville station. Gastineau, who has worked with department 10 years, works at the Highland station where he supervises that station’s Explorers program. Both deputies are on paid administrative leave.

“As the sheriff of San Bernardino County and a parent myself, this is very disheartening,” Hoops said. “I’m alarmed.”

Hoops said the department will examine all aspects of the Explorer program, including training, evaluation and selection of the deputies who supervise the Explorers. Hoops said that county District Attorney Mike Ramos has “offered to provide” an investigator familiar with sex crimes and crimes against children.

“We have to proceed (with the Explorer program) with caution,” Hoops said. “We’re going through our Explorer policy with a fine-tooth comb to see if there is anything we need to change to prevent this from happening again. I felt that we had everything in place.”

Hoops said the program, which includes 245 volunteer Explorers (ages 14-20) at 15 county substations, will suspend the ride-along portion of the program for 60 days.

“By no means are we throwing the Explorer program under the bus,” he said, “but it’s disheartening and I’m angry.”

Benjamin was arrested hours after investigators in the Victorville office received an anonymous tip that a deputy might have had inappropriate sexual contact with an underage female, Hoops said.

Benjamin could not be located for comment.

Other than two deputies being arrested for similar offenses, Hoops said the cases are not related.

The Explorer Scout program provides youths who are interested in law enforcement careers a chance to experience police work. Explorers generally do not stay out on patrol past 10 p.m., said an Explorer leader.
Hoops said he still believes in the value of the Explorer program and that the safety of the youths is a priority.

“We have many fine deputies at all of our stations, who have been involved in Explorers for many years,” he said.

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