Suspect Arrested After Customer Finds Hidden Camera in Starbucks Restroom

The woman was using the restroom when she noticed a blue light blinking in a bracket underneath a shelf, police say

A La Habra man was arrested in connection with a hidden camera that a customer found under a shelf last week in an Orange County Starbucks restroom.

The suspect, identified as 44-year-old Melchor Carrillo Alvarado, went to the Brea Police Station Monday night on his own initiative after multiple media outlets published a photo of a man he acknowledged was him leaving the Brea Starbucks Friday night after police arrived.  The photo had been taken by a friend of the woman who found the camera.

"He initially denied any involvement in the crime, but after investigators spoke with him, he did admit to placing the camera in the restroom," said Lt. Darrin Devereux. "It was aimed right at the toilet, so he would get people undressing to use the bathroom."

Investigators found seven individuals on the camera recording, said Lt. Devereux, and Alvarado was booked under the penal code section dealing with "peeping tom" offenses.  It is a misdemeanor, and Alvarado was released after booking.

"He turned himself in because he knew it was wrong," said Hector Alvarado, 22, the suspect's son who spoke of his father's commitment to cooperate with authorities and take responsibiliity for "his mistake."

Police acknowledged that Melchor Alvarado did not insist on a warrant, instead giving his consent for police to search the family home and take his laptop and other electronic devices.

Investigators were still processing the electronics to determine if any additional individuals may have been recorded surreptitiously, said Lt. Devereux.

Melchor Alvarado's son described his father as a hard worker and "great father" to him and his three sisters.  Hector Alvarado said his father recognizes "his problem" and is considering what the investigating officers told him about  psychological treatment.

There are therapies to help those prone to voyeuristic behavior to control it, said David Pincus, PhD, a Chapman University Associate Professor of Psychology with clinical experience treating paraphilia, or sexual deviations.  Dr. Pincus stressed he has no direct knowledge of the Alvarado case and could comment only in general terms.

Voyeurs seldom seek help until their conduct leads to arrest, according to Dr. Pincus.

"Threat of punishment is the incentive to undergo intensive therapy," said Dr. Pincus. "Having a family can be helpful if it is supportive and healthy," Dr. Pincus said.

A customer discovered the hidden video camera that recorded multiple people using the coffee shop's restroom, police said. The customer, who had been out to dinner with her friends last Friday night, made a stop at the coffee shop at 101 W. Imperial Highway in Brea. When she went into the single-user restroom, she noticed a blue light blinking in a bracket underneath a shelf, according to the Brea Police Department.

The woman took a closer look and discovered a small camera about the size of a large marker facing the toilet, police said. She used paper towels to remove it in case there were fingerprints on it.

"You just never think it's going to happen to you," said the woman, who did not want to be identified. "Once that device hit the floor and I saw the light, I immediately knew it was something, it was a camera."

A forensic examination revealed images of both men and women using the restroom, police said. 

A member of the group took the picture of the departing man who turned out to be Alvarado because he seemed to be acting strangely after going into the restroom, and tried to hide a laptop under his shirt as he left the coffee shop, the woman said.

Police also want to speak with customers who used the Starbucks restroom on Aug. 14 before 11 p.m.

Starbucks officials say they are cooperating with the investigation.

Earlier this month, a hidden camera was found in a Del Taco bathroom in La Habra.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd and Patrick Healy contributed to this report.

Contact Us