PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A lawsuit has been filed against law enforcement agents with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service after a Hillsboro man was allegedly wrongfully arrested on sexual abuse charges in California, despite records that revealed he was in Oregon when the crimes were committed.
According to the lawsuit filed Jan. 20, 2021, 52-year-old Sotero Garcia Chavez was taken into custody at his job in Beaverton by members of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Fugitive Task Force in October 2020.
The complaint stated Garcia Chavez was arrested on a warrant for “continuous sexual abuse of a minor under 14 years of age,” which had been obtained by the City of Escondido Police Department.
The suit said the “defendants incorrectly targeted Mr. Garcia Chavez as the person named in the warrant, despite known discrepancies between him and the person named in the warrant, including name, birth year, home address, and place of residency at the time the criminal actions were alleged to have occurred.”
According to the original claim, the Washington County man is seeking roughly $250,000 in damages for alleged negligent arrest, false imprisonment, and unlawful seizure.
The suit suggested Garcia Chavez was held for 44 hours at the Washington County Jail, arraigned, and ordered to be placed on a $1 million bail before the USMS contacted the jail to inform them that the officers had made a mistake.
Included in the suit was a teletype message sent by Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Gerg to the jail on Oct. 17, 2020, at roughly 11 a.m., which read: “USMS SAN DIEGO PROVIDED THE WRONG INFORMATION FOR A WANTED SUBJECT. GARCIA CHAVEZ IS NOT THE SUBJECT WANTED ON A FELONY ARREST WARRANT AND WAS ARRESTED IN ERROR. THE VICTIM IN THE CASE WAS SHOWN OF PHOTO OF GARCIA CHAVEZ AND CONFIRMED HE IS NOT THE CORRECT PERSON. PLEASE RELEASE SOTERO GARCIA CHAVEZ AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.”
According to the suit, as a result of being wrongfully arrested, Garcia Chavez sustained injuries to his wrist and leg, experienced elevated blood pressure, and lost wages.
His attorney wrote in the suit, “Mr. Garcia Chavez has suffered further as a result of having been accused of sexually abusing a child, believing he may be extradited out of state, and feeling as though he had no control over the situation and its effect on his family… Mr. Garcia Chavez lost wages and incurred medical bills because of the unlawful actions of the Defendants.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for a statement on the suit, spokesperson Deputy Brian van Kleef declined to comment due to the pending litigation.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshal District of Oregon did not immediately respond to KOIN 6 News’s request for comment.