General Crime

Former Social Workers Pleads Not Guilty to Sex with Teen Clients in San Mateo County

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A former social worker accused of having sex with two teenage clients while working for the San Mateo County Child Protective Services agency pleaded not guilty earlier this week to 20 counts of oral copulation and sexual intercourse with a person under 18 years old, prosecutors said. Manuel Sedillo-Messer, 38, of Santa Clara, was arrested last month after a 16-year-old girl told sheriff’s investigators she had a sexual relationship with him for several months earlier this year while she was his client, according to the district attorney’s office. (story continues below photo)

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Since then, investigators have located a second 16-year-old girl who said that he took her to a hotel in San Jose and had sex with her.

In total, Sedillo-Messer is charged with 11 counts of oral copulation with a person under the age of 18, two counts of sexual penetration of a person under 18 and seven counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under 18, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Seventeen of the 20 counts relate to the first victim. Sedillo-Messer met the first victim in 2011 when he was assigned to her family and became very friendly with her, eventually starting a sexual relationship with her on June 21 of this year. He allegedly had sex with her on multiple occasions between then and July 31, including at a motel near Bakersfield, at another in Redwood City, at a San Mateo County beach and even in the Child Protective Services building in East Palo Alto, prosecutors said.

During that time, he also allegedly had sex with the second victim, another 16-year-old girl who said he was like a father to her until he took her to the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose for sex on July 11. The agency first learned of the alleged abuse around that time and placed Sedillo-Messer on administrative leave on July 15. While the investigation by an external child welfare agency was inconclusive, county Human Services Agency director Iliana Rodriguez said that she found reason to terminate Sedillo-Messer and accepted his resignation on Oct. 24.

He was arrested in Palo Alto four days later. Initially, investigators had reports from only the first victim but since then have interviewed the second victim and received a more detailed account from the first victim, leading prosecutors to file additional charges. Sedillo-Messer pleaded not guilty to all 20 counts Monday in the courtroom of Judge Barbara Mallach. He is next scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 29, prosecutors said. A married father, Sedillo-Messer has worked with the Child Protective Services agency since 2006 and for the county since 2001.

He remains out of custody on $400,000 bail and on the condition that he not contact either victim.

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