In celebration of Smile Generation Serve Day, Moorpark Dental Group partnered with the nonprofit After Innocence to provide free dental care for a man who spent more than 16 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

“Now that I got this brand-new smile to sport, I’m able to smile more often and let them know that you guys have really done a lot,” Luis Vargas, who was exonerated after the California Innocence Project reviewed his case, said. “Not only have they given me back my freedom, but (the dental work) has also given me more positivity, more positive outlook toward life.” 

In 1999, Vargas was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison for the armed attacks on two women and rape of another. The trial had relied heavily on inaccurate eyewitness testimony and Vargas, who had a tear drop-shaped tattoo under his eye, resembled a serial predator known as “The Teardrop Rapist” who was terrorizing Los Angeles at the time. Vargas maintained his innocence for more than 16 years, filing appeals until he caught the attention of the California Innocence Project, which prompted a review. 

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