Manuel Edward Torres

Manuel Edward Torres

A retired Santa Barbara County supervising probation officer has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to allegations he embezzled more than $600,000 from the union he led.

During the hearing Monday in Santa Maria Superior Court, Manuel Edward “Ed” Torres, 64, also was granted release from County Jail on his own recognizance. 

Torres, who was arrested last week, has been accused of diverting $635,254 from the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officer’s Association into his personal bank account over 10 of his 20 years leading the organization.

Charges include misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, forgery, and false personation, all alleged to have occurred between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2019. 

Torres also has been charged with three counts of failure to file an income tax return for tax years 2009 to 2011, and eight counts of filing a false income tax return for 2012 to 2019. 

Additionally, the criminal complaint includes a sentencing enhancement for aggravated white collar crime, stating that the alleged felony conduct involved taking more than $500,000. 

Since his arrest, he had been in custody at County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

During Monday’s hearing, Judge James Rigali granted Torres release from county jail after a report recommending the action.

However, his pre-trial supervision will be handled by the San Luis Obispo County Probation Department since Torres previously had worked in Santa Barbara County.

Terms of his release also require Torres to surrender any firearms he owns and to avoid contact with members of the probation officer’s union. 

Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota is leading the prosecution team and Torres was represented by attorney Michael Scott.

The District Attorney’s Office opposed the pre-trial release, one of several that have occurred in recent months under an emergency rule aimed at reducing jail populations, primarily involving defendants not charged with violent crimes, due to COVID-19. 

The case against Torres will return to court Sept. 11 to Judge James Voysey’s courtroom, where the attorneys may set a date for a preliminary hearing. 

Torres also served locally as a basketball coach, including at St. Joseph and Orcutt Academy high schools. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at