An Orange County sheriff's deputy charged with falsely imprisoning at least six prostitutes and sexually assaulting them in his patrol car may have victimized a dozen or more women, authorities said Friday.
Richard John Rodriguez, 43, a 21-year veteran of the department, has been charged with five felony counts of false imprisonment and several misdemeanor counts, including engaging in acts of prostitution, prosecutors said.
He was arrested Thursday following an eight-month investigation that started when a prostitute told a Garden Grove police officer that a deputy had her sit in his patrol car, then drove her to a secluded area where the alleged misconduct took place, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.
Rodriguez took photographs of women and had them touch him or would touch them against their will while they were in his patrol car, authorities said.
"It's an embarrassment for the department and also for all those who wear a badge," Amormino said, adding that investigators want to locate other potential victims.
On Friday, Rodriguez, who is married and lives in Chino, posted bail. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday. He could not be reached for comment.
Rodriguez was assigned to the Orange County Transportation Authority, which contracts with the sheriff for patrol services. After the department was tipped about Rodriguez's alleged misconduct, he was put on paid administrative leave.
Amormino said that because of Rodriguez's OCTA assignment, he worked alone.
He allegedly approached his victims while they were at or near bus stops along Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove and Santa Ana.
The incidents allegedly occurred between Nov. 1, 2005 and March 2, 2007.
According to investigators, Rodriguez told the women that he had to check for any arrest warrants for them. On three occasions he allegedly handcuffed the victims and ordered them into his patrol car.
He would then drive behind a building and sexually touch the victims or photograph them in sexual poses, authorities said.
Rodriguez is also accused of returning when he was off-duty and paying one of the victims $50 for oral copulation, authorities said.
Investigators searched Rodriguez's home, car, locker and work bag, and seized his computer, cameras and other equipment.
The investigation took a long time because investigators had to track down the identities of the victims photographed, including some who had left the state. One woman was found in Florida, Amormino said.
Sheriff's officials asked any possible victims to contact the Sex Crimes Unit at (714) 647-7419.