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Videos Seized From Ex-Hooters Manager

March 26, 2004|Cynthia Daniels | Times Staff Writer

Detectives found 180 videos Wednesday taken from a former Hooters restaurant manager that show job applicants undressing, West Covina police said.

The women, ages 17 to 25, were apparently applying for jobs at a restaurant scheduled to open in West Covina in April, detectives said. The women were asked to step into a trailer at the rear of the restaurant site on Garvey Avenue and change into a Hooters uniform, police said.

"People here were shocked," said Det. Lt. Mark Dettor. "None of us suspected we would find that many videos, and we are dealing with victims who are shocked and feel betrayed."

Detectives were contacting 82 women they have identified so far who might be on the digital videos.

Police were notified of possible video recording at the end of January, when two young women independently filed police reports saying that they believed they were secretly recorded during their interviews. One woman said she saw a camera that she believed was turned on while changing her clothes in the trailer.

On Feb 24, police served a search warrant on the trailer and the home of the Hooters general manager at the time, Juan Aponte of Arcadia. Computers were taken from the home and trailer, and forensic experts eventually recovered the videos on the computer from the trailer. After a story appeared about the allegations in a local paper, 10 other women filed police reports, saying they also had been asked to change into Hooters uniforms, Dettor said.

During the February search, police also recovered 1,200 applications for jobs at the Hooters in West Covina.

Some included Polaroid pictures, and police have used those to try to identify women on the videos.

Aponte, 32, was general manager of a Hooters in Pasadena for two years. He no longer works for the company, said Justin Johl, the attorney representing Hooters.

Aponte has not been arrested. Police said they will present their information soon to the district attorney.

Aponte's attorney, Brian Michaels, would not comment on the investigation, but said Aponte would plead not guilty to any charges.

West Covina Police Chief Frank Wills said Hooters cooperated fully with the investigation. Johl said the franchise was shocked and outraged over the discovery. The company is conducting its own investigation.

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Times staff writer David Pierson contributed to this report.

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