Underage Sex Scandal Rocks Police Departments In Northern California
A teenage sex worker said she had sex with officers in at least seven police departments in exchange for protection and money, sparking multiple investigations.
A sex scandal involving a teenage prostitute and more than two dozen police officers has shaken several law enforcement agencies in Northern California, prompting multiple investigations and the resignation of a major city police chief.
The woman, now 18, alleges she was involved with at least 31 officers from across the Bay Area, accepting money in exchange for sex and, at times, tips on when and where police would be cracking down on prostitution.
Some of the encounters, she said, happened when she was a minor.
"Be safe today!! Want some advice?" one officer texted her before warning about an undercover sting. "Thank you daddy," she texted back, according to messages she provided to local media. "I appreciate it ion wanna go to jail lol."
The allegations have implicated officers in seven separate police departments, including the Oakland Police Department, where five officers were placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation. Two of those officers have since resigned.
A deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department and an inspector with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the allegations, officials told BuzzFeed News.
But the allegations that police officers had been involved with the young sex worker exploded into a wide-reaching scandal when one of the officers, accused of having sex with her when she was 17, killed himself last year.
A suicide note left behind by the Oakland police officer reportedly revealed his relationship with the teen and named four other uniformed officers who had some sort of contact with her as well, touching off an internal investigation that would eventually expand to several other law enforcement agencies.
According to the teen, who goes by the name "Celeste Guap" on social media, she had sexual relationships with 14 Oakland police officers — including three while she was a minor — five Richmond police officers, three San Francisco police officers, one Stockton police officer, one Livermore police officer, four Alameda County deputies, and three Contra Costa County deputies.
"We are dealing with disgusting allegations that disturb me greatly," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a press conference Wednesday. "The culture of this department does not tolerate unethical behavior, sexual misconduct, or lying."
Not only are departments looking into allegations that their officers became involved with a teen who has described herself as a prostitute, but officials are also looking into the possibility officers might have had sex with her while she was a minor.
The shocking allegations were first reported by the East Bay Express earlier this month, which detailed how Guap became involved with Oakland police Officer Brendan O'Brien in February 2015 while running away from a pimp.
Guap was a minor at the time. When the two ran into each other again weeks later, she told the paper they began to flirt and soon after were dating and having sex. Guap has told reporters, however, that she became involved with other police officers as well, partly to avoid going to jail.
Law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Guap was personally connected with police departments in the Bay Area. Her mother is a dispatcher for the Oakland Police Department. Her stepfather also works as a dispatcher, although it was not immediately clear for what agency.
According to the East Bay Express, the teen eventually told an Oakland police
sergeant days before O'Brien's death that she had been seeing the officer despite being underage.
The department had been looking into the allegations, but the young officer left a suicide note behind talking about his contact with Guap and named four other officers who may also have had a sexual relationship with the girl, the East Bay Express and San Jose Mercury News reported.
"The only officer I ever messed with underage is sadly gone now," Guap wrote last month on Facebook. "So I don't know why this is still being brought up."
The suicide and resulting scandal prompted two Oakland police investigations and led to the abrupt resignation last week of Police Chief Sean Whent.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the chief, who was hired to help reform the troubled department, was stepping down due to "personal reasons."
But local media reported Whent was actually forced out of his position as a result of his handling of the growing scandal, and allegations that some of the officers involved with Guap had given her advance notice of undercover prostitution stings.
The Oakland Police Department has been under federal oversight due to misconduct since 2003, and the department's independent police monitor reportedly became aware of the allegations in March.
Whent was replaced by interim Police Chief Ben Fairow, but, in a bizarre twist, Fairow was suddenly removed from the position on Wednesday, just six days after he had been appointed to the job.
Schaaf said at a press conference she had asked Fairow to step down after "information that I received Monday raised concerns for me about whether he can effectively lead this department at this particular moment in time and in this critical transition."
Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Chief Kenton Rainey later said Fairow resigned because, "while he was married, he had a personal relationship with a consenting adult more than a decade ago." Fairow has since been reassigned to his old position as deputy chief of the department's support services division.
Along with the multiple internal investigations being conducted at the law enforcement agencies, BuzzFeed News has learned district attorneys in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are also conducting separate investigations into the allegations against deputies in their counties and officers from the Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Stockton, and Livermore police departments. So far, no criminal charges have been filed.
"While it is our practice not to discuss pending investigations, I can firmly state that we do not and will not turn a blind eye to human trafficking or the sexual exploitation of a minor, whether the offender is a civilian or a law enforcement officer," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement.
"We take the allegation seriously and will not tolerate this alleged conduct by our employee, as we uphold the highest ethical standards," Sgt. Jimmy Lee of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department told BuzzFeed News.
The San Francisco Police Department is also conducting an internal investigation.
"We are aware of the investigation and are conducting a review to determine if any of our members had any inappropriate contact with the victim," San Francisco police Officer Carlos Manfredi said.
Alameda County Sheriff officials said their deputies were determined to have not conducted any illegal or unethical behavior, although they were found to have had contact with the sex worker.
"We have no reason to believe that they did anything illegal or unethical in their contacts with Ms. Guap," Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department told BuzzFeed News.
The investigation determined that Guap was 18 when she was had contact with the Alameda deputies, and that there was no indication that money was exchanged for sex, Kelly said.
Stockton Police officials also said their officer had been cleared of wrongdoing.
Kelly said that the deputies and Guap met each other through Facebook, and that they did not know she was a sex worker at the time. They were also unaware of her involvement with other officers, or deputies in their own agency.
Exactly what kind of contact she had with officers in multiple agencies will be reviewed by the multiple investigations.
On her Facebook account, Guap often posted pictures of herself with uniformed police officers. And on Tuesday, she said she had recently been questioned by investigators for more than 12 hours about her contact with police officers in the area.
Guap did not return multiple requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
In addition to the multiple internal investigations and reviews by two district attorney offices, law enforcement sources said federal officials are reviewing the allegations.
Spokespersons for the FBI and Department of Justice told BuzzFeed News they could not confirm or deny the existence of any ongoing investigations.
The California Attorney General's office also said state officials are monitoring
the ongoing investigations.
"The allegations of misconduct, if true, are disturbing and reflect a serious breach of the trust placed in law enforcement by the communities we are sworn to serve," a spokesperson said. "There must be swift accountability for any wrongdoing."