A respected San Jose firefighter who led that Silicon Vally city fire department’s outreach programs with local schools and churches, appeared in court Tuesday to face charges of selling the dangerous drug methamphetamine and engaging in sex with an underage boy. But in his court appearance, 53-year-old Mario Enrique Cuestas was arraigned only on three charges related to sale of meth to an undercover cop.
The San Jose firefighter did not yet have to deal with charges that he gave drugs to a teen boy with whom he allgedly had a sexual relationship because that part of the investigation into Cuestas’ shocking secret life is still underway, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier.
The arrest of Cuestas last Thursday at the San Jose Fire Department‘s headquarters sent waves of disbelief through not only the department, but the whole Bay Area city of just under a million people.
“We are surprised that this event has happened,” said San Jose Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Cleo Doss after the raid on the fire department facility that netted Cuestas. “We are not jumping to conclusions and we are not prosecuting him. This is an ongoing investigation.”
“The charges and the arrest are shocking to me and to all firefighters right now. Everyone feels horrible about that,” said Deputy Chief Robert Sapien, who is also president of the San Jose firefighters’ union and said that he has known Cuestas for a lengthy period of time. “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.”
Cuestas is a 20-year veteran of the San Jose Fire Department. He has served as an engine driver and fire investigator, but has also been visible in the San Jose community, representing the department. He was in charge of commemorations to honor victims of the 9/11 attacks, among other high-profile activities.
Cuestas was openly gay and once appeared on a local television program to discuss his coming out after being married with kids. One of his sons reportedly has his sights set on a career in the San Jose Fire Department.
Bail for Cuestas was set at $75,000. He is now on unpaid leave from the San Jose Fire Department as he awaits further charges.