A jury convicted Vargas last month for repeatedly molesting a young girl who saw him as a father-figure. The sexual abuse started in 2005 when she was just eight years old and continued until 2007 when a sheriff's deputy caught them together in a car. In court on Thursday, a victim's advocate read a letter from the girl's mother.
It said, "He robbed her innocence, her childhood, and the trauma that she will take during her whole life. He destroyed her life, and after she testified, she remains traumatized."
Deputy District Attorney David Sandhaus says that's why Vargas deserved the stiffest possible penalty.
David Sandhaus: "By sentencing this defendant to 588 years in prison, it guarantees this specific person will never molest a child again and hopefully other people who might contemplate such an action will think twice before they do it."
The sentence is the longest anyone has ever received in Merced County. That's partly because the state passed a law in 2006 that requires a prison term of 25 years to life each time someone rapes a child.
Sandhaus: "The punishment is proportional to what the people of California said they want for raping a victim. The other thing about getting a really high sentence like this, it guarantees he'll never get out."
Defense attorney Caleb Hegland says his client is innocent and he plans to appeal the conviction. But for now, Vargas is facing an unprecedented prison term for what the prosecution describes as an unimaginable crime.