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MTA Bus Driver Charged With More Attacks

Crime: Anthony Zaragoza faces 11 counts in molestation of 2 brothers he met on route. He's already charged in another abuse case.

September 14, 2001|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An MTA bus driver accused of molesting a boy on his route was charged Thursday with sexually abusing two more children he met on the bus.

The two brothers, now adults, came forward after reports that the driver, Anthony Zaragoza, 49, confessed to police that he had abused a boy in June, and that it wasn't the first time such an incident had occurred.

Zaragoza, of Quartz Hill, was charged with 11 new felony counts involving the two boys. The incidents of lewd conduct, sodomy and oral copulation with a minor allegedly occurred between 1978 and 1985. The two brothers were younger than 14 at the time.

"The two new victims met Zaragoza while he was driving a bus in Montebello," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Christina Weiss. "They are both now adults and will be strong witnesses."

The circumstances surrounding the case, Weiss said, allow her to get an extension of the statute of limitations for such sex crimes.

Zaragoza already is charged with three counts of molesting the 15-year-old from North Carolina, when the teenager rode an MTA bus from Pasadena to Hollywood in June to go sightseeing. That boy captured what prosecutors say is Zaragoza's voice on a video camcorder he was carrying. If convicted of all the charges, Zaragoza could face up to 63 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $500,000 bail.

Zaragoza confessed to molesting the boy and others, according to a Los Angeles police detective's affidavit for a search warrant to obtain MTA records on the driver.

Weiss said Los Angeles police detectives are trying to track down other potential victims.

"This individual was very active in numerous community organizations and there may be victims out there," she said.

A father of three, Zaragoza was a Little League coach and often mentored students, authorities said.

Two decades ago, he was convicted of a felony robbery in La Habra and sentenced by an Orange County judge to a year in jail and three years of probation.

Zaragoza got the conviction expunged from his record in January 1989.

Still, the MTA's predecessor, the Southern California Rapid Transit District, knew of his conviction when it hired him as a driver in February 1989. But since the criminal record had been officially expunged, it technically didn't exist and state law did not allow an employer to consider it.

During a recent preliminary hearing, authorities played the video made by the North Carolina boy.

A voice, which police said is Zaragoza's, is heard saying that the boy is a "good-looking kid, that's why I like you. Beautiful eyes. You got a beautiful shape."

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