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SJ firefighter accused of child molestation

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POSTED February 14, 2014 7:12 p.m.

SAN JOSE  (AP) — A veteran Northern California firefighter is in custody on suspicion of selling and possessing methamphetamine, providing narcotics to minors and child molestation, state justice officials said Friday.

Mario Enrique Cuestas, 53, was arrested Thursday at the San Jose fire department administration headquarters, California Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said Friday. Agents from a state-run regional task force later seized computers and personal records from Cuestas’ office and his home for evidence.

Authorities arrested Cuestas, a San Jose firefighter for 20 years, after receiving a tip that sparked a two-month investigation revealing he was soliciting children for sex through websites, Gregory said.

Cuestas recently became the department’s public outreach liaison that puts him contact with schools, churches and other community organizations, fire officials said.

News of his arrest left his colleagues surprised and angry. Deputy Chief Robert Sapien, president of the San Jose firefighters’ union, said the accusations against Cuestas seem out of character.

“The charges and the arrest are shocking to me and to all firefighters right now. Everyone feels horrible about that,” Sapien said. “To have that compounded by having a firefighter associated with those crimes is difficult. Clearly, the behaviors are not in line with what we’re here to do, which is to help people.”

Fire Capt. Cleo Doss, a fire department spokesman, said the accusations could break trust with the community.

“It’s something that we don’t tolerate. It goes against everything that this badge stands for,” Doss said.

Cuestas is being held without bail at the Santa Clara County Jail. Fire department officials say he has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney, jail officials said

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