US prison warden in California accused of inmate sex abuse

National

DUBLIN, Calif. (AP) — The warden of a federal prison in California has been charged with sexually abusing an inmate, authorities said Wednesday.

Ray J. Garcia, 54, of Merced, allegedly groped at least one of his female wards, asked at least two inmates to strip naked for him and took and stored photographs of a naked inmate in a cell at the Federal Correctional Institute Dublin in California’s San Francisco Bay area, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Garcia also is accused of trying to deter a victim from reporting the abuse by telling her “that he was ‘close friends’ with the individual responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by inmates and … that he could not be fired,” according to the statement.

The arrest is the latest example of serious misconduct within the federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency that has long been plagued by allegations of chronic mismanagement and abuse. Just in the past two years, the agency has struggled with a failed response to the pandemic, a series of escapes, deaths and critically low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies.

Garcia was associate warden at the all-female low-security lockup at the time of the alleged abuse, prosecutors said. He later became warden but was placed on leave in July and he was charged last week with sexual abuse of a ward.

“He received training regarding inappropriate relationships with inmates, including the fact that sexual or financial involvement were prohibited,” and Garcia also trained new supervisors on procedures and policies of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which is intended to deter sexual assaults on inmates, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

It’s the latest of at least three sexual abuse cases involving employees at FCI Dublin, located 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Oakland.

Earlier this year, former FCI Dublin correctional officer and recycling technician Ross Klinger was arrested on charges he abused his authority and coerced two inmates into sexual activity. According to prosecutors, Klinger, 36, told the inmates that he wanted to marry them and father their children. He also gave them money and gifts, prosecutors said.

In 2019, the prison was sued by an inmate who alleged that a guard sexually abused her and other employees helped to cover up the assault. The prison has denied the allegations.

FCI Dublin opened in 1974 and was converted to an all-female facility in 2012. One of five all-women prisons in the federal system, it currently houses about 750 inmates.

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spent time there for their involvement in the college admissions bribery scandal. Other famous inmates over the years have included publishing heir Patty Hearst and Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.

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