LANCASTER – A 38-year-old transient pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that he secretly recorded females using the toilet at a Lancaster Starbucks and other local establishments, authorities said.
Antonio Serrano pleaded no contest to two felonies and six misdemeanors, and he was immediately sentenced to nine years and eight months in state prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.
“I’m disappointed that the Legislature has determined that filming a child going to the restroom is only a misdemeanor; I think the Legislature needs to look at that,” Hatami stated. “However, I’m very pleased that the victims received justice today. The victims were present for the plea and were able to face the defendant and make victim impact statements.”
Five identified victims – four women and a child – and at least eight unidentified victims are in restroom video recordings that were made by Serrano between May 1 and July 16, according to court records. The cellphone video was secretly recorded in locations that included a Starbucks coffee shop and Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, both in Lancaster, and the Antelope Valley Mall, the prosecutor said.
A criminal investigation began July 9 after a female customer reported that a cellphone was under a sink inside the single-occupancy women’s restroom at the Starbucks located at 855 West Avenue K in Lancaster. The cellphone — which was taped to the restroom sink’s pipe lining and positioned to record patrons using the toilet — was spotted by the woman’s 5-year-old son, sheriff’s officials said.
Detectives recovered a photo of Serrano from the phone and arrested Serrano July 16. Detectives also discovered that Serrano was in possession of a government document with a false seal, additional cellphones and subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. Serrano admitted to detectives that he had been recording women and children using the restroom for a couple of months, which was confirmed by evidence found on the recovered cellphones and SIM cards, sheriff’s officials said previously.
Serrano was initially charged with seven felonies and 12 misdemeanors. The felony counts included three counts of possession of child or youth pornography; two counts of second-degree commercial burglary; and one count each of counterfeit seal and identity theft. The misdemeanor charges included two counts each of trespass by entering and loitering about toilet to solicit lewd acts; six counts of unauthorized invasion of privacy; and two counts of attempted unauthorized invasion of privacy. The criminal complaint was amended last week to add seven charges, many of them misdemeanor counts of unauthorized invasion of privacy, according to the prosecutor.
Serrano appeared in court Tuesday, Aug. 18, for what had been scheduled as a preliminary hearing. Instead, he pleaded no contest to one felony count of possession of child pornography, one felony count of identity theft, five misdemeanor counts of unauthorized invasion of privacy, and one misdemeanor count of loitering about toilet to solicit lewd acts, according to Hatami.
The remaining charges against Serrano were dropped in exchange for the no contest plea.
In addition to the nearly 10-year prison term, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carlos Chung ordered Serrano to register for life as a sex offender. The judge also granted a protective order that prevents Serrano from contacting each of his victims, as well as the Lancaster Starbucks, Chuck E. Cheese and the Antelope Valley Mall.
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