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A custodian at Chiefland Elementary School was arrested April 4 after a hidden camera was found in a staff restroom.
According to a press release issued by the Levy County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of the Levy County School Board, “law enforcement officers have thoroughly searched all the restrooms at CES and did not discover any additional cameras. Investigators determined Perez targeted staff bathrooms to set up his video equipment. No credible evidence has been uncovered that any children were targeted for videoing by Perez at this point in the investigation.”
Chiefland Police Officer Blake Murphy arrested Roberteus Tampus Perez, 34, of Cedar Key, after a teacher found a suspicious device and called the police, who arrested Perez on two felony counts of video voyeurism. He was transported to Levy County Jail where he was incarcerated under a $700,000.00 bond.
According to an incident report by Murphy, Levy County School Resource Officer Deputy Chase Gregory, and assistant principals Kelly Nicole Gore and Aaron Haldeman, informed him that a small camera was in an artificial plant in the Media Center/Library restroom. The camera was pointed toward the toilet to capture footage of individuals exposing their bodies while using the restroom.
Murphy stated in his written report that a teacher, whose identity was withheld, knocked on the closed restroom door. There was no response. Perez exited shortly after the teacher knocked on the door. The female teacher said after Perez left the restroom, she felt there was something odd. She located a small camera concealed in the plant that sat on a small table. The teacher took the camera to assistant principal Haldeman who placed it in a resealable plastic bag.
Murphy described the device as a battery and wires wrapped in camouflage tape. “There was a small motherboard and lens attached to the wires and battery. A small micro SD card was visible on the motherboard.”
After further investigation, Deputy Gregory identified Perez.
A similar crime was committed May 16, 2016. During that incident, a small camera was located in a different restroom at the elementary school, according to Murphy’s report.
According the press release from the sheriff’s office, “School Board and law enforcement personnel from the Chiefland Police Department and the Levy County Sheriff’s Office immediately began a criminal investigation.
Investigators realized that a similar incident had been reported during the 2016 school year. They quickly identified Robert Perez as a suspect.”
Murphy took the camera to the police department where he viewed video footage from the camera, according to his incident report.
“The file was opened and Perez’s face was observed looking into the camera lens as he positioned it inside the restroom Perez continued to adjust the camera and a knock on the door could be heard. After Perez gets the camera in a position pointing toward the toilet, he acts as if he was using the restroom and flushed the toilet. Perez exits the restroom and the teacher enters. She exposes her body while utilizing the toilet and when she finishes, she picks the flower up, then locates the camera inside it.”
Murphy returned to Chiefland Elementary after viewing the video where he contacted Perez. He and deputy escorted Perez to an office at the school where he was read his Miranda Rights. At that time, he agreed to speak with them.
“Perez admitted to concealing the camera inside the artificial plant. Perez stated that the camera was purchased from the Internet and it was originally a key fob camera that he took apart,” according to Murphy’s statement.
Perez admitted to owning approximately five cameras that he has concealed in two restrooms at the school since 2016. He admitted placing the camera in the office restroom in May 2016 and “stated that he had concealed cameras in restrooms approximately 10 times prior to the first camera being found May 16, 2016,” according to Murphy’s incident report.
After the camera was found in 2016, Perez said he became frightened and quit placing the camera in the restrooms for several months. He said the videos from his past recordings were stored on his home computer. At that time, Murphy left the room to take a telephone call. After he returned to the room, Perez requested an attorney and all questioning ceased, according to the incident report.
According to the LCSO press release, investigators executed a search warrant at Perez’s residence. “A number of items containing potential evidence were recovered during the search. Those items will take a significant amount of time to review. At this time, we believe that Robert Perez was solely responsible for both camera incidents. Perez has been placed on leave without pay and due process procedures are being followed for termination. Perez has no prior disciplinary issues since he began his employment with the Levy County School Board Sept. 9, 2010.”
Authorities stated they do not know the identities or the number of potential victims who may have been recorded during these criminal acts.
According to the LCSO release LCSB Superintendent Jeff Edison spoke to Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone about the cases. Cervone assured Edison his office will take every step possible to protect the identities the victims and prevent release of the videos after the completion of the prosecution.
“The School Board has and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and the State Attorney. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, much of the information is not available to us. However, we have been assured by investigators that they will provide as much information to us as possible throughout the investigation,” according to the LCSO press release.
In the 2016 incident report, Officer Ella Anderson stated a camera was found in the men’s faculty restroom by a female teacher who used the men’s room because the women’s room was occupied. She apparently noticed a small brown paper towel on the bottom shelf where toilet tissue is stored. The teacher thought the paper towel did not look right. She took a closer look and found a small camera facing the commode. She immediately removed the camera and took it to Haldeman.
According to the report, Anderson said the restroom is kept secured and locked until approximately 7:30 a.m. when parents drop their children off at school. Parents, bus drivers and staff have access to both the men’s and women’s facilities.
Anderson wrote that he spoke with a custodian who said she arrived at school at about 06:30 a.m. The only other employees present then were two lunchroom workers.
The camera was placed into evidence. The case was unresolved until April 4.
CPD Sgt. James Yanok said Thursday during a press conference that Perez did not indicate whether the video was for his personal viewing or for commercial gain.