Juan Gerardo Castaneda, a 31-year-old man, never made physical contact with a 14-year-old girl, so all the charges should be dropped, Castaneda’s attorney said at a hearing yesterday, August 10.
But judge Harry Elias disagreed, saying that contacting and arranging a meeting with a minor by computer or text message is included in the penal codes charged against Castaneda. The defendant pleads not guilty to four felonies and one misdemeanor.
On Monday, a Carlsbad police officer described the sting operation he initiated six months ago.
Officer James Bellamy said he looked at the “Personals” section of Craigslist because “There is a high amount of prostitution and drugs in this section.” He said on the morning of February 18, “I was looking for suspicious ads. There are several kinds of ads we look for.” In the “Men Seeking Women” section, officer Bellamy found an ad stating, “Looking to party and play right now. 31. In Oceanside.”
This ad looked promising because he found the word Hydrocodone in the subject line, the cop said. The ad stated, “I have Hydrocodone” and explained that this drug is actually oxycodone combined with acetaminophen.
Bellamy said of the ad, “It is offering a controlled substance to someone who is willing to party and play.”
In his investigation, the officer sent a series of email messages and then text messages. “I took on the role of a female, 14 years of age.”
“You have to think like a 14-year-old girl would think. Which is difficult for me,” the cop told the court, in his sworn testimony.
Bellamy said he used the name Brooke. In his communications as Brooke, he declared that he was in school that Wednesday morning and “I’m mature for my age” and that “boys my age are drama.” The cop exchanged photos with the advertiser, he said that he has several photos he uses for his role as an under-age female.
Bellamy said one of the responses he received was: “I have no problem if you’re younger, comma, I also have a vehicle so I can pick you up or whatever.”
A meeting was arranged at a Vons grocery store on Tamarack Avenue in Carlsbad. Bellamy said he saw Castaneda show up at about 3:30 p.m. “I observed a brown Chevy Silverado drive into the lot,” the officer testified.
Castaneda was arrested.
“This is unfortunately a common occurrence where we have people online searching for sex,” said prosecutor Jeff Dort. “And thankfully we have police officers protecting our youth so we have police officers show up instead of the children.”
Castaneda is currently at liberty on bond, and is next due in court on September 1.