A former leader of the Santa Barbara County probation officers union has pleaded no contest to a series of tax evasion charges, but will stand trial on others related to allegations that he embezzled thousands of dollars.

Manuel Edward Torres

Manuel Edward Torres

Manuel Edward Torres, 66, who retired as a supervising probation officer, entered no contest pleas on Aug. 4 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court to eight counts of filing false tax returns for 2012 through 2019. Three other charges, for failing to file tax returns between 2009 and 2011, were dismissed.

Torres, who was arrested in July 2020, has been accused of diverting $635,254 from the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officers Association into his personal bank account during 10 of his 20 years leading the organization.

He initially faced 16 felony charges, all related to allegations of crimes that law enforcement officers say occurred between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 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.

The case has been transferred to a Santa Barbara judge to avoid conflicts in the North County.

In addition to working as a probation officer in the North County, Torres served as a successful basketball coach at local schools.

Torres, who is not in custody, apparently will stand trial for other charges, including embezzlement, grand theft and forgery plus special allegations, or sentencing enhancements.

He was ordered back to court Sept. 15 with plans for an Oct. 6 trial date. However, Torres’ attorney, Michael Scott, has another trial scheduled that may take precedent since it involves a different client who remains in custody.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota is leading the prosecution team.

Sentencing on the tax charges will occur after the trial concludes or the case is resolved.

Torres coached at St. Joseph High School for 27 combined seasons and won seven CIF Southern Section championships (five in girls and two in boys) and two CIF State titles in girls basketball.

He served as an assistant coach at Orcutt Academy High School, and remained listed on the website at the time of his arrest.

Torres also coached women’s basketball at Allan Hancock College, taking the Bulldogs to the State Elite 8 in 1992 and finishing as state runners-up in 1993.

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