State Parks worker tried to secretly record people at Pismo hotel, records show

jhickey@thetribunenews.comAugust 21, 2013 

The Shore Cliff Lodge, right, in Pismo Beach is shown in 2008.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A California State Parks employee pleaded no contest in 2012 to attempting to secretly record others after police found recording equipment aimed at the hotel room adjacent to his at Best Western Plus Shore Cliff Lodge in Pismo Beach, as well as videos of unsuspecting people in unknown public restrooms and a private residence.

Jesse Nungaray, who was 46 at the time and a resident of Moreno Valley, was on assignment and staying in hotels for several months in early 2012 to work in Pismo State Beach in Oceano, remodeling bathrooms and other facilities at the state park campground, according to a sentencing memorandum filed with San Luis Obispo Superior Court obtained by The Tribune on Tuesday.

Noreen Martin of Martin Resorts, which owns the Shore Cliff Lodge, said that a careful housekeeper noticed that an outlet had been tampered with in Nungaray’s room.

Hotel staff noticed suspicious items in his room, such as “cameras and recording devices that appeared to have been set up to take surreptitious photographs or video recordings,” the memorandum said.

Martin said that hotel administrators asked Nungaray to leave and notified the Pismo Beach Police Department.

A search warrant yielded “videos Mr. Nungaray had apparently made in a public restroom where it appeared that the subjects using the restroom were not aware they were being filmed,” the memorandum said.

One of the videos showed a residential bathroom being used by minors.

Nungaray explained in the memorandum that the residential bathroom video was taken in an attempt to find out if his teenage son was using drugs after being disciplined at school for smoking marijuana.

The recordings of people in public restrooms were never linked to restrooms in SLO County or any state park.

The prosecutor for the case, Andrew Baird of the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, said “There was no indication that there was peeping at any state park in this county.”

He added, “The police investigation excluded that the restrooms were local. I know they looked at that carefully.”

State Parks checked the restrooms at Oceano and found no recording equipment, spokeswoman Vicky Waters said. “There is no evidence that links these recordings to any state park,” she added.

State Parks also issued a formal statement Tuesday to The Tribune, an excerpt of which reads:

“When we became aware of Mr. Nungaray’s actions in early 2012, the Department acted swiftly and participated with local enforcement entities in the investigation and arrest of Mr. Nungaray. He was immediately put on administrative leave, and at the conclusion of the full investigation, was dismissed from his position.”

On July 30, 2012, Nungaray pleaded no contest in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to two misdemeanor counts related to the Shore Cliff Lodge incident, which took place between the dates of Jan. 9 and 11, 2012: using an instrument to look through a hole into the interior of a room, and using a camcorder to secretly record the body of another.

A felony count of eavesdropping, a misdemeanor count of vandalism, and a misdemeanor count of using a concealed camera to record a person in a state of undress were dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office.

Nungaray paid a $200 fine and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 150 hours of community service, a court minute order shows. In addition, he was ordered not to come within 50 yards of the Shore Cliff Lodge or possess any video camera or recording device other than a cell phone.

Nungaray spent 10 years as a construction and maintenance worker for State Parks, working on projects throughout the state, before being fired by State Parks. He had no prior criminal record, other than a DUI more than 20 years ago, and was not required to register as a sex offender, the memorandum shows.

Shore Cliff Lodge is seeking $8,000 in restitution, most of which is for lost room rates when Nungaray’s crew switched hotels after the incident.

A restitution hearing scheduled for Aug. 21 was postponed.

Nungaray’s attorney, Guy Galambos, told a Tribune reporter that Nungaray is unemployed.

Tribune staff writer Patrick S. Pemberton contributed to this report.

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