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MTA Will No Longer Hire Felons

July 11, 2002|HECTOR BECERRA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Spurred by the case of a burly driver who molested a teenage boy on an empty bus, MTA officials on Wednesday announced that they will no longer hire people with felony and certain misdemeanor convictions.

In the past, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would consider people with felony convictions for employment if some years had passed since the crime, and as long as they qualified for the job, said Marc Littman, a spokesman for the agency.

But the conviction of Anthony Zaragoza--a 325-pound father of three--for molesting a 140-pound, 15-year-old boy from North Carolina in June 2001 prompted the MTA to change its hiring policy. People who have plea-bargained felony charges down to misdemeanor convictions also will be barred from being hired, Littman said.

He called what Zaragoza did inexcusable and tragic, but he said the incident should not be used to portray all MTA buses as dangerous.

"We're not making any excuses, but there are 5,000 bus and rail operators and the vast, vast majority are law abiding and hard working," he said.

Littman said that within 18 months, all MTA buses will have surveillance cameras.

Zaragoza was sentenced in March to 30 years in prison. He worked for the transit agency despite having been convicted in 1980 of armed robbery.

On June 20, 2001, Zaragoza made sexual advances to the young tourist as the bus idled on a Hollywood side street. The boy secretly turned on a video camera he had. A menacing Zaragoza is heard saying, "I could pin you to the floor and take your pants off without you stopping me."

Zaragoza then fondled the boy before letting him leave.

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