The introduction of cameras on cell phones has made it easy to take photos and videos nearly anywhere at any time, resulting in a slew of cases of workers accused of secretly recording others.
The latest instance involves Marco Bartolon-Velasquez, a Florida man (pictured above) who has been charged with video voyeurism after he allegedly planted a cell phone in the ceiling of a women's bathroom inside a JCPenney store in West Palm Beach, supposedly to keep track of staff.
Police say that Bartolon-Velasquez told authorities, "he had only done it today to monitor how well his employees were cleaning," according to an arrest report Tuesday (via the Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Fort Lauderdale).
The camera was discovered when a female employee who works in the JCPenney store's loss-prevention unit found a cell phone "lodged in-between the exhaust fan and the drywall, cantered down at an angle, with its camera aiming toward the bathroom toilets," the report says.
Police were called and an examination of the phone revealed that its language setting was set to Spanish. A review of the store's Spanish-speaking workers pointed to one person who might have planted the phone: Raphael Dieguez, a pseudonym that Bartolon-Vasquez used to secure employment.
According to the police report, Bartolon-Velasquez said the name Raphael Dieguez belonged to his brother. The suspect further said that he was living in the U.S. without legal permission.
Authorities reportedly confirmed that the phone belonged to "Dieguez" after finding a phone number in his employment file that, when dialed, caused the cell phone found in the bathroom to ring. According to the newspaper's account of the report, police went looking for Bartolon-Velasquez and found him in a stockroom. The suspect then agreed to talk with police.
Though he first denied the phone was his, police said that the 26-year-old eventually admitted to using a 6-foot ladder to plant the phone to keep tabs on staff. Further, Bartolon-Velasquez also claimed that he had been recording employees since last Christmas. But when pressed by detectives, he said no video was ever used to correct employees' work, according to the police report.
It isn't clear whether Bartolon-Velasquez's job involved supervising other employees.
A representative for the retail chain declined to comment on the "pending criminal investigation," Miami TV station WTVJ reports. But spokesman Joey Thomas wrote in an email that the suspect wasn't an employee. "He is a contractor with a facility maintenance company," Thomas said.
The case is strikingly similar to one involving a maintenance worker at a Sears store in suburban Los Angeles. Alejandro Gamiz was arrested in April for allegedly placing a hidden video camera behind the walls of the store's women's restrooms and fitting rooms.
Gamiz, who was 27 at the time, was thought to have placed the cameras in the fitting rooms a year before they were found.
Companies routinely rely on video surveillance to keep track of customers and employees for various reasons, from maintaining security and preventing theft to tracking consumer behavior and employees' whereabouts.
More than a million people in the U.S. are employed as security guards to monitor such cameras, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though most states require security guards to be licensed the job doesn't typically require education beyond a high school diploma.
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