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December 12, 2007

Illegal School Lunch Worker Arrested Making Up-Skirt Videos

Posted in: Sex Crimes, Education

Richard Espinoza-Valdez

East Valley Tribune

The investigation started after a Saguaro High School student noticed a lunch worker following a classmate while angling a box lid with a camera hidden in it under her skirt.

That student notified administrators. And a day later, Richard Espinoza-Valdez, 28, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was arrested on charges that could land him in jail for seven years.

Espinoza-Valdez, who had worked at three Scottsdale schools as a temporary food services, was arrested Nov. 6.

A clearer picture of how police identified victims emerged Tuesday, when police released the report in the case.

A student originally alerted the school about the worker’s behavior Nov. 5. Assistant principals Robert Akhbari and Greg Sackos watched Espinoza-Valdez during lunch the next day as he followed a girl in a short dress, angling the box top beneath her skirt, the report says.

The administrators asked Espinoza-Valdez if they could look through his camera. He obliged.

Akhbari noticed a recent video clip, but couldn’t make it play. When he asked Espinoza-Valdez to play the clip, the food worker instead deleted the image and denied anything inappropriate had been on the camera.

When police interviewed him, Espinoza-Valdez admitted to taking 10 videos at Saguaro, Chaparral High School and Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Espinoza-Valdez told police he had started his videotaping about a month earlier. He said he enjoyed looking at them and was especially interested in capturing images of girls between 16 and 19.

Police recovered three deleted videos featuring images from under girls’ skirts.

In the next few days, police identified three victims between the ages of 14 and 17.

Police have stopped looking for additional victims, Sgt. Mark Clark said. “We’re not able to determine where the rest of (the incidents) took place, so we don’t believe there is anymore follow up we can do to identify victims,” he said.

Two Saguaro victims told police they hadn’t been aware the video had been taken. One student said she noticed a food services worker walking close behind her, “but was afraid to turn around and confront him.”

Espinoza-Valdez was indicted on one felony count of surreptitious videotaping and photographing, two counts of attempted surreptitious videotaping and photographing and two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct.

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