A former employee at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center is accused of hiding a camera in a men’s restroom trash can and filming 11 people.
Mauricio J. Morales, 45, of Eden Prairie, was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court with 11 counts of interfering with privacy.
“The defendant stated that he stayed late to drill a hole into the trash can and used Velcro to mount the camera,” the charges said. “…The defendant said he would view the videos on his personal laptop.”
The case comes on the heels of two other similar incidents that occurred at the Mall of America and a hotel downtown.
Morales was charged via summons, which means he will be allowed to turn himself into authorities at a future date, and is not in custody.
A Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center spokesman was reached by phone Tuesday afternoon and had no comment on the case or Morales’ employment status. The VA issued a written statement Wednesday morning, which did not address Morales’ job title at the time or employment history.
“These allegations are abhorrent and VA condemns them in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said.
Morales has not worked at VA for about 10 months, the VA said.
Morales declined to comment when reached by phone. He did not have an attorney listed for his case.
According to the complaint: Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Police were alerted Feb. 22 that a camera was found in a restroom at the medical center. The victim told police he was in the restroom and saw something strange about a trash can located near the toilet. He pulled on the trash can liner and a camera fell onto the floor.
Police identified the camera as a mini-camcorder. A hole had been drilled into the trash can and the camera had been attached on the inside with Velcro.
A review of the camera’s memory card showed video of Morales placing the camera in the trash can.
Morales told police he installed the camera on four different days between Feb. 19 and 22nd, the charges said.
Police identified 11 alleged victims, nine of whom have been identified. Eight victims identified themselves and another said he was 50% sure he was depicted in a recording.
The charges did not specify whether the alleged victims were employees or clients.
Earlier this month Wisconsin high school students visiting Minneapolis found recording devices in their hotel rooms, leading the Madison School District to place a staff member on leave.
The Madison East High School students had stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis in early December. Charges have not been filed in that case.
In October, authorities revealed that they were investigating an Elk River man for allegedly hiding several cameras inside changing rooms at the Mall of America and Maplewood Mall between January and September.
The suspect targeted stores frequented by girls and young women, and allegedly watched video of people changing in real time from locations near the dressing rooms.
The suspect was arrested and released pending further investigation. No charges have been filed in the case.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib