A Salinas man faces a possible 18 years in prison after a jury found him guilty this week of sexually abusing a girl for years and discouraging her from telling anyone about it.
Jose Francisco Barajas, 43, started abusing the girl when she was 12 years old and paid her $2,000 to $3,000 to maintain her silence, according to Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni.
Police were alerted in February 2018 to a report of child molestation and contacted the girl, age 15 at the time. She told them that Barajas, her uncle by marriage, had inappropriately touched her for years.
The abuse ranged from kissing and groping to digital penetration, authorities said. Barajas also paid the girl for lewd photographs, prosecutors said.
When she was 13 years old, the girl told Barajas to stop the abuse or she would tell someone, but he dissuaded her by telling her that the family would break up, that no one would believe her and that he had money and would not go to jail. After that, Barajas starting paying her, authorities said.
The investigation by law enforcement took more than a year and uncovered many witnesses and pieces of independent evidence to corroborate the girl's allegations. Investigators also discovered efforts by Barajas to destroy digital evidence of his crimes and encourage the girl to lie to the police about what happened, according to the district attorney's office.
The jury convicted Barajas on Thursday and Monterey County Superior Court Judge Andrew Liu will sentence him on Oct. 9. Based on a finding of substantial sexual conduct, Barajas faces a mandatory prison term, with a maximum possible sentence of 18 years, 8 months.
In addition, he will be required to register as a sex offender for life.