Bail was increased Tuesday to $1 million for a Kennewick man who is accused of friending girls on Facebook so he could lure them to have sex with him.
Prosecutors requested the high bail amount after learning Valentin A. Castrejon has made comments about moving to Mexico to avoid a possible prison sentence.
Investigators have identified four victims so far, girls between the ages of 12 and 14, said Franklin County Deputy Prosecutor Teresa Chen.
The investigation spans several counties and has drawn the attention of federal agents, she said.
Castrejon, 20, has been in the Franklin County jail on $100,000 bail since Aug. 9.
His Facebook page — which reportedly has been changed to private since his arrest — shows that he “friended thousands of apparent under-age females,” Chen said in her motion.
He has two pending rape cases in Franklin County, and similar allegations were filed Monday in Benton County. The charges include seven felony counts and claims that he videotaped the sex acts.
Her motion noted that on May 4 — three months before Castrejon’s arrest on the newer case — he posted on Facebook, “Going to move to Mexico soon.”
A few weeks before that, he had posted about family in Mexico, she said.
Then on Aug. 10, while sitting in jail, he said on a recorded phone call that someone is working on getting $10,000 so he can post bond. He noted that he’s “looking at around five to 10 years,” and “ain’t planning on doing that time here.”
When asked by the other person if the “only way to leave it is going to Mexico,” Castrejon replied, “Yeah and that’s probably gonna happen ASAP as soon as I get out.”
Defense attorney Scott Johnson argued the motion is not timely, since the alleged statements about leaving the country were made weeks ago, and Castrejon remains locked up.
“If he had the financial wherewithal to bail out and go to Mexico … he would have been gone a long time ago,” Johnson said.
Some bail increase might be warranted, but even some homicide suspects don’t have bail as high as $1 million, he added.
Johnson said two detectives contacted his client in jail last week, knowing that Castrejon hired a lawyer and is not to be questioned without Johnson present.
Judge Bruce Spanner said one purpose of bail is ensuring that a person comes back to court.
It is “worrisome” when a defendant makes a statement like Castrejon did, and that justifies $1 million bail, Spanner said.
Castrejon’s 2015 case is for second-degree rape of a child.
Then, in August, he was charged with a second case for third-degree rape of a child.
On Tuesday, Chen added two more counts of third-degree rape of a child, along with first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, second-degree rape of a child and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Pasco police were contacted in July after a mother discovered her young teen daughter had sex. The girl told detectives she met Castrejon at a party earlier in the year, and the two stayed in contact through Facebook and text messages.
The girl said she had to sneak Castrejon out of a back door when her mother came home after she had sex with Castrejon, court documents said.
The mother showed police a Facebook profile of Castrejon with an alias, and the girl confirmed it was the man with whom she’d had sex, documents said.
Detectives said a majority of the more than 2,000 friends on Castrejon’s Facebook page were girls between 14 and 18.
It was during the Franklin County investigation that the name of a girl who lives in Benton County surfaced as a possible victim.
On Monday, Castrejon was charged in Benton County Superior Court with one count of second-degree rape of a child.
In that case, the girl allegedly met Castrejon on Facebook and agreed to meet up with him at a Kennewick apartment. She said she told him her real age before they had sex. He told the girl he was 21, and said she could not tell anyone because it was illegal for them to have sex, according to court documents.
When police took the girl to the complex, she identified an apartment where Castrejon’s sister lives, documents said.
The alleged crime happened between February and August, while Castrejon was out of custody on his pending 2015 Franklin County case.
An arrest warrant was issued with $50,000 bail.
He is scheduled to make his first appearance Oct. 13 in Benton County.