I Ain’t Afraid of no . . . Scandal!
By Jesse B. Gill
2011 was a rough year for the Inland Empire Ghostbusters.
Chris Maldonado and Nathan Gastineau founded the cosplay fan club in October 2010 when they came across a handful of other local Ghostbusters fans who had the means and determination to piece together authentic-looking costumes and gear.
But now, only a year after the two formed the group, Maldonado has tragically passed away and Gastineau is fighting felony sex-based charges in court. Another member has already pleaded guilty to similar charges.
One thing can be said for the Inland Empire Ghostbusters—they’re dedicated to their cause. Losing Maldonado and having Gastineau accused facing charges would likely bring any fan club to its knees. But the Inland Empire Ghostbusters are still out there, refusing to be afraid of no ghost.
It’s All About Charity
In an article published by the Weekly in March, the Ghostbusters said they had formed not only to share their love of the films and their characters, but also to serve the community.
They built their proton packs from items bought from Home Depot. They transformed a 1995 Mercury Sable into the impressive Ecto-1, a custom-built Ghostbusters vehicle complete with faux gadgets and a door logo. If real-life Ghostbusters were hunting supernatural pests in the real world, they’d be proud to drive this Ecto-1.
They channeled their creative energies into making appearances, many of them for great causes. They’ve been seen at charity events like local Relay for Life rallies, which is meant to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. Just after forming, they appeared for the Loma Linda Ronald McDonald House Halloween celebration.
In fact, the Ghostbusters don’t really refer to themselves as a “fan club.” They call themselves a community service organization, and judging by the list of charity events they’ve attended purely just to make people happy, that label seems comfortably apt.
And their focus remains on charity. Last month, I had a conversation with a member of the club who refused to give his name. He answers the Inland Empire Ghostbusters’ Gmail account.
In my email conversation with the club member, he said the Ghostbusters’ community service includes (but is not limited to) “working with charities and community organizations for various causes in the IE and SoCal.”
But in April, Gastineau, 31, of Redlands, was arrested. He was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. The girl was a police Explorer Gastineau supervised through his job as a Sheriff’s deputy. Court records show detectives found a video of Gastineau and the girl having sex when she was 15.
The girl was also a member of Inland Empire Ghostbusters.
Days after Gastineau was arrested, another adult club member, Jason Anguiano, 27, of Rialto, was also arrested and accused of having sex with the same girl.
Gastineau is charged with three counts of lewd acts on a minor and three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse. Prosecutors are set to present their evidence against him in court today in a preliminary hearing. Despite repeated attempts to contact him for comment, Gastineau’s attorney, Andrew Haynal, did not respond to numerous phone messages.
Anguiano pleaded guilty in June to two counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. He served a 180-day jail sentence and was released from West Valley Detention Center on Oct. 22, said Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller. He will now serve three years probation and will not have to register as a sex offender, though he cannot have any unsupervised contact with minors.
Then in September, Maldonado died of a heart attack at age 26. In my email conversation with the unnamed club member, he implied that the charges against Gastineau and Anguiano worsened Maldonado’s medical condition.
“Since our group was so important to him, and these situations caused much stress on him, we have no doubt that is was a contributing factor to his death,” the club member wrote.
But the member also wrote that Maldonado’s “dying goal” was to have the Ghostbusters push through the difficulty of his death and the sex scandal and carry on as a group.
And that’s exactly what the group has done.
“We have spent the last eight months reclaiming our organization’s name back,” the Ghostbuster wrote. “Remember, our group has done nothing wrong.”
Innocent until Proven Guilty?
In researching this story, I have spent a lot of time on the Inland Empire Ghostbusters’ Facebook page. The Ghostbusters list both Gastineau and Anguiano as active members on their Facebook page.
On Nov. 7, I checked the page and found photos of Gastineau, in full costume, at the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. The event took place every Friday and Saturday in October in, you guessed it, Los Angeles.
The event was open to all ages and in some of the photos I found on the Ghostbusters’ Facebook page, Gastineau was posing in costume with young children. (Editor’s note: these photos were taken down shortly after Jesse B. Gill asked the Ghostbusters about them.)
In any other circumstance, the presence of children wouldn’t be much to bat an eye at, but the allegations against Gastineau (essentially sex crimes against a child) have not stopped him from attending these events.
Upon finding the photos, I sent an email to the Gmail address listed on the Facebook page, not really expecting a response. But the unnamed Ghostbuster did respond and his candor surprised me.
I posed a question: “Was it appropriate for Gastineau to participate in the group’s activities, especially where children were present despite the fact that he was charged with having sex with a minor?”
In his response, the Ghostbuster said several times that Gastineau’s charges, Anguiano’s guilty plea and the girl’s allegations only involve the three of them.
“As far as Mr. Gastineau is concerned, our stance is ‘Innocent until proven guilty,’” the member wrote.
Via email, the group member contends that the Inland Empire Ghostbusters have nothing to do with the accusations against Gastineau or those Anguiano faced before pleading guilty. But according to investigators’ reports, the Inland Empire Ghostbusters was the common thread connecting Gastineau, Anguiano and the teenager both men were accused of having a sexual relationship with.
Gastineau was a 10-year San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy working in Highland. He was one of the advisors to the Highland Station’s Explorer post. (Explorers are 14- to 21-year-old volunteers who work with law enforcement officers and firefighters to get first-hand experience about what both jobs really entail.) Gastineau first met the girl when she was 15, when she joined the post.
Gastineau and the girl then became friends, according to detectives’ reports. He told her about the Inland Empire Ghostbusters, what they did and why they did it. Something about the way Gastineau explained it made the teenager join a cosplay fan club consisting of members who dress up as characters from a movie made before she was born.
Before long, the girl was a full-fledged member. She was featured in the Weekly story in March profiling the group.
So was Anguiano.
The day that Gastineau was arrested and three days before Anguiano was, the girl told detectives she met Anguiano through the club events.
The club maintains that none of the acts Gastineau and Anguiano were accused of ever happened at club events. According to detectives’ reports, they didn’t find any evidence that any sex acts occurred at any Ghostbusters events. According to detectives’ reports, that’s absolutely true.
But the sexual meet-ups with both men took place directly before or following Ghostbusters’ events, according to those same reports.
When Sheriff’s detectives interviewed Gastineau before he was arrested in April, he told them the first time he and the girl had sexual intercourse was sometime in late February or early March, according to a report the investigators submitted to prosecutors. The girl and Gastineau were at his Redlands apartment alone. They were waiting to go to a Ghostbusters’ event. They were both wearing the Ghostbusters jumpsuits.
Ghost hunting, eh?
Gastineau recalled the encounter in detail to detectives, according to the report. But (long story short) one thing led to another and Gastineau and the girl wound up having sex. (Investigators later found video proof that Gastineau and the girl had sex as early as November 2010, when she was 15, according to the same reports.)
Anguiano took the girl to a Redlands hotel at least twice in April. On one of those occasions, the girl told her father she and Anguiano were going “ghost-hunting.”
“On 04/19/11 (the girl) told (her father) that she was going with Anguiano to Yucaipa,” Sheriff’s detective Tyson Niles wrote in a report. “V1 explained that on a previous date they had gone to a place to check and see if there was any paranormal activity. They were now going to meet and review their recordings to see if they could detect any of the paranormal activity.”
They never made it to the Yucaipa ghost hunt. The girl later told detectives the two went to the Redlands hotel and had sex. Detectives later found receipts in Anguiano’s Ford pick-up truck that confirmed the girl’s story, according to their reports. If that weren’t enough, they also checked the story and the receipts up against footage from the surveillance cameras and confirmed it again.
Despite the evidence suggesting that both Gastineau and Anguiano both used the Inland Empire Ghostbusters as a vehicle to have sex with the same teenage girl, the unnamed club member insists what the three members did on their own time was outside the club’s purview to try and control.
“What you’re not fully understanding is what people (members or former members) do outside of our activities is their business,” the Ghostbuster wrote. “Common meeting ground or not, we have no control over what people do in their private lives and on their own time.”
And as for Gastineau’s appearance, in costume, interacting with kids at the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride? Well, the member wrote, the Ghostbusters appeared by request.
“The events we chose to do this October were requested appearances, and if you were monitoring our Facebook page we participated in a couple events around the IE and Southern California with and without Mr. Gastineau,” he wrote.
Ghostbusters Non Gratis
So I reached out to Melissa Carbone, president of Ten Thirty One Productions, the company that organized and threw the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. I asked her if anyone from her company requested the Inland Empire Ghostbusters to attend the event. I also asked her if she was aware of charges Gastineau is facing.
“We have never heard of this Ghostbuster[s] group and not only did we not request an appearance from them, but the only appearance request of the season that we extended was to Exorcist star Linda Blair,” Carbone said.
She went on to say that the Los Angeles Hayride has a strict “no costume” policy and that anyone showing up to the event in costume was asked to leave.
“I cannot be sure it was the same group, but I can also tell you that our security team kicked out a group of men wearing Ghostbuster uniforms,” she said.
I then wrote another email to the Ghostbusters, asking whom it was at the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride that requested they attend the event. I told him what Carbone told me about her security team removing a Ghostbusters group because of the no-costume policy. I asked him to confirm or deny that it was the Inland Empire Ghostbusters.
The unnamed member told me neither he nor the club had any comment. He then asked me not to contact the club again.
“More than those three members”
It’s true that the Ghostbusters couldn’t do much to stop Anguiano and the girl from having a relationship, especially if it was kept secret. The same goes for Gastineau, if he’s guilty of the charges against him.
But the club is left to pick up the pieces of the scandal, regardless of the validity of the charges.
The remaining Ghostbusters are a group of people wholly devoted to a worthy cause: having fun and trying to improve their community while they do it. And it’s safe to say that members of the group may be unfairly victimized by the sex scandal, as they must now figure out a way to distance themselves from it.
Before he broke off contact, my unnamed Ghostbuster sent me seven emails discussing Gastineau’s recent activity with the club. He occasionally threatened legal action if I kept writing about this. But mainly he was a man trying, understandably, to help his club move forward in the best way possible.
“Our organization represents more than those three members,” he wrote. “It represents an entire group of people. The actions of the three members involved do not reflect the Inland Empire Ghostbusters.”