Victims of ‘sextortion’ involving sheriff’s deputy accuse Riverside County officials of cover-up plot

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) — The victims of a sexual extortion plot involving a former Riverside County sheriff’s deputy have now filed federal civil rights lawsuits, claiming Riverside County officials engaged in a scheme to cover up the crimes.

Last month, Christian Heidecker pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges for threatening women who were under house arrest with punishment unless they sent him sexually explicit material.

He was later sentenced to five years in state prison.

In announcing the filing of federal lawsuits, one of the victims, identified only by her initials Y. V., spoke out alongside her attorneys in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside Thursday afternoon.

“What they did was wrong,” said Y. V. about the alleged actions of Riverside County officials to silence them after Heidecker’s crimes became known. “What they continue to do is wrong and we will not be silenced.”

Attorney Denisse Gastelum said county officials engaged in a scheme to lure another victim, identified as K. P., into a sheriff’s substations and then try to convince them to sign settlement agreements.

“What they did to K. P. is disgusting,” said Gastelum about the alleged plot. “They lied to her. They told her that her ankle bracelet wasn’t working; that the GPS system wasn’t picking up her location. So they bamboozled her to come back into the station, where they put her in a room with interrogators.

“Knowing where she was at, she was afraid and signed this release. And for that, they offered her a $5,000 check to ensure that K. P. would keep her mouth shut and wouldn’t tell the public what a government official here in Riverside County did to her.”

Gastelum said 10 days later, county officials reversed course and denied the claims.

In a response to the lawsuits, a Riverside County spokesperson provided a statement to Eyewitness News.

“The County of Riverside has more than 25,000 employees, all of whom are held to high professional standards,” said Brooke Federico, a Riverside County spokesperson.

“Those we serve must all be treated with respect and dignity. Criminal behavior is not only unacceptable, it is referred to law enforcement. In this situation, the county investigated, arrested, prosecuted and reached a conviction for Heidecker. He has since been sentenced to prison.

“As for the settlement agreements, it is not uncommon to seek settlement prior to litigation to avoid the time and expense for both sides associated with lawsuits. Pre-litigation settlements do not contain non-disclosure language. To characterize any pre-litigation settlements as an effort to buy silence is a clear mischaracterization.

“Upon receipt of these lawsuits, the County will review them thoroughly to determine next steps.”

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