As more alleged victims come forward to claim they were preyed upon by campaign consultant and North Salinas High School coach John Fickas, who's been charged with multiple counts of drugging and raping women, Fickas is being investigated by federal law enforcement for possible financial improprieties related to his political work.
A source who asked to remain anonymous but who is active in local politics tells the Weekly that two FBI agents from the bureau's Oakland office tracked him down today as he was volunteering at the California Rodeo Salinas to question him about Fickas' campaign work.
At first, the source says, he thought it was a prank. But after a nearby Salinas police officer confirmed for the source that the agents' credentials were legitimate, the agents questioned the source for about 30 minutes about local political campaigns and the money that flows into them.
"They flashed out a picture of him in a plastic sleeve and asked me, 'Do you know this person?' and I said, 'Shit yeah, it's John Fickas.' And then it was all about cash. They kept asking me who are the people out there in Monterey County who pay cash to campaigns, but I said there's nobody that pays cash.
"It was all about the cash. They had no interest in the (rape) stuff. They kept mentioning he's been observed walking around with stacks of cash," the source says. "They thanked me and said they were going to talk to other people locally."
He adds the agents didn't ask him to keep the interview confidential. The source's account of the events was confirmed by a witness who spoke to the Weekly but asked that his name not be used. "It was surreal," that witness says.
A Salinas police source confirms the presence of the FBI at the rodeo grounds Wednesday, but was unaware of the nature of what was discussed.
The Weekly broke the news July 11 that Fickas, who in addition to his coaching and political work was a board member of the Santa Rita Union School District, was arrested that day on charges that he raped and sodomized drugged and incapacitated victims.
According to the complaint filed in Monterey County Superior Court, Fickas is accused of assaulting two separate victims, one of whom was a minor at the time of the alleged incident. One attack allegedly happened in 2009, while the other allegedly happened in 2015, on election night when he was running for a seat on the Salinas Union High School District board.
He faces six charges in all: two counts each of rape by use of drugs and rape of an unconscious person; sodomy of an unconscious person; and sodomy by use of anesthesia or a controlled substance.
Since word of the charges broke, law enforcement officials report that dozens of people have called to complain about Fickas' behavior. Monterey County Sheriff's Det. Bryan Hoskins told KSBW's Felix Cortez that investigators believe they've identified five additional victims, and that number may rise.
Hoskins tells the Weekly he was unaware of the FBI's interest in Fickas. Locally, both sheriff’s detectives and Salinas police are investigating the assault allegations against Fickas, because while he was a field hockey and track coach at North Salinas High School, it's believed some of the alleged assaults took place outside city limits.
Fickas was held on $400,000 bail. He posted bail the morning of July 12 and was released from custody. He's due to appear at 1:30pm July 22 in Dept. 1 of Monterey County Superior Court for arraignment on the existing charges. Hoskins says it's unlikely the sheriff's office or the Salinas police will forward information about potential new victims to the District Attorney by the arraignment.
"We're still working through all the victims and writing up their statements," he says.
A voicemail left after hours for Fickas' attorney, Miguel Hernandez, was not immediately returned, nor was a voicemail left at a number listed for Fickas.
Fickas has coached the girls' junior varsity field hockey team and also is the varsity shot put coach for the track and field team at North Salinas High School. SUHSD spokesman Marcos Cabrera issued a statement in which Fickas is described as a "walk on, off-campus" coach, meaning he's not an employee of the school or district.
"We are shocked to learn about the recent arrest of one of our walk on, off-campus coaches. Certainly this is a disturbing set of allegations and as we learn more about the detail we will address the matter consistent with the law and our policies. At this time it is an ongoing investigation and we are cooperating with law enforcement officials," the statement reads.
"The safety and security of our students are a priority," the statement continues. "Thus, once we were notified of the investigation we placed this coach on administrative leave, and as a result, he was directed to have no contact with any Salinas Union High School District student. We must respect the rights to privacy and due process of everyone involved, and the District cannot comment further on personnel matters or student information. As law enforcement moves forward we will take the appropriate disciplinary actions which may include termination of this coach. We appreciate the community's understanding and support as we work through this unfortunate situation."
A source who has worked within the district and agreed to speak to the Weekly under anonymity says that several years ago, they warned the school district that Fickas had been harassing female students; the source says they were admonished to keep out of it. It appears no action was ever taken against him.
Cabrera says the district would not respond to any questions beyond the statement he issued.
Fickas was known around Monterey County as a political consultant who provides clients with precinct walkers, phone bankers and strategy to target absentee voters during election seasons. Among the campaigns he worked for: Scott Davis' successful campaign for Salinas City Council and Steve Bernal's successful campaign for sheriff. He's also listed as a campaign manager for one of the city of Salinas' tax measures.
According to Smartvoter.com, he's also worked on the campaigns of Mike Kanalakis for county sheriff, Butch Lindley for Monterey County supervisor, Abel Maldonado for state senate and Jeff Denham for state senate.
This isn't the only criminal case currently lodged against John Fickas. He is in the middle of a felony case filed in October 2018 that alleges he abused rabbits. He is listed as a breeder, along with his brother, of rabbits for show and sale. Together, the brothers launched a company called Salad Bowl Rabbitry.
Hoskins asks that anyone with information about the case, whether a witness or potential victim, call him at 755-3773.