Detective Gregory Beaumarchais, 43, was charged with one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a victim believed to be under the age of 18, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said in a statement.
Det. Beaumarchais, who has been a member of the Santa Ana Police Department since 2011, was placed on administrative leave after a civilian alerted the department that he had allegedly sent them sexually graphic messages while they pretended to be a 14-year-old girl.
The texts were sent on social media between December and January, some of them while Det. Beaumarchais was on duty, the DA’s statement alleged.
Det. Beaumarchais was named Santa Ana Police detective of the year in 201, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The department says it was notified in December of the allegations and proceeded to refer the investigation to federal and county authorities. After turning himself into authorities on Tuesday, he was released on his own recognizance on the same day.
According to the DA’s office, the social media platform Det. Beaumarchais sent the messages from removed his account before he created a new profile under a similar handle.
If convicted of the misdemeanor, he would be required to register as a sex offender. He could also spend up to a year in prison and be subject to a $5,000 fine. His next court hearing is scheduled for 13 October.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer decried the alleged behavior in a press release.
“Police officers are entrusted with the sacred responsibility to safeguard society from harm,” Mr Spitzer said.
“It is beyond disturbing that a sworn police officer would engage in inappropriate conversations with someone he believed to be a child. Our children should not have to worry about being preyed upon by the very people we teach them who are there to protect them.”
Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Police Department said in a statement that it is actively cooperating with Orange County and Homeland security investigators working on the case.
“Misconduct, of any type, negatively impacts the commitment to public service demonstrated by the overwhelming majority of our officers,” said Chief David Valentin.
“Our Department will not tolerate inappropriate behavior or alleged criminal conduct that infringes on the trust provided by the community we are hired to serve. We will ensure a complete, thorough and objective administrative investigation is conducted immediately following the conclusion of the criminal case.”
Det. Beaumarchais works as an officer with the Major Enforcement Team, which tackles gun trafficking, narcotics, and gang-related crimes, the New York Post reported.
The Independent has reached out to Det. Beaumarchais’s attorney for comment.