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O.C. councilman arrested on sex charges due in court

A former Orange County official and current Santa Ana city councilman charged with sexually assaulting seven women and committing grand theft of public funds was scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday.

Carlos Bustamante, 47, is accused of luring women into his office during business hours, cornering them and proceeding to hug, kiss and grope them, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said Tuesday. Bustamante is accused of targeted victims whom he worked with at the Orange County Public Works Department.

Rackauckas said Bustamante, a former county executive who was arrested on Monday, would frequently comment on the victims' physical appearance and made sexual comments about them, sometimes around other people.

He would call or email women and ask them to come into his office for work-related matters but would then close the door and corner them, the district attorney said.

"Many of his victims believed that Bustamante’s office was soundproofed and that if they screamed, nobody would hear them anyway," Rackauckas said.

Over eight years, victims were also assaulted in cubicles, offices, stairwells and vehicles, Rackauckas said.

Bustamante allegedly stalked one of his victims after she refused to continue a sexual relationship with him, according to the district attorney.

In a news conference Tuesday, Rackauckas said the women believed that Bustamante was very "well connected" and was seen as being friendly with the county's human resources manager.

One woman even mentioned that Bustamante seemed "untouchable."

Though Bustamante was charged in the sexual assaults of seven women dating back to 2003, Rackauckas said there were at least 12 other accusers. Bustamante will not be charged in those cases because of the statute of limitations, but they will be used as evidence at trial, prosecutors said.

Bustamante, a Santa Ana native who was elected to the City Council in 2004, was seen by insiders as a fresh Republican face who could appeal to the burgeoning Latino population in the county. In 2008, he resigned from two state commission appointments after he joked to a Los Angeles Times reporter about breast implants. He denied making the comment.

The current charges were sparked by an anonymous letter sent to the Board of Supervisors last fall detailing impropriety in the Public Works Department. An internal auditor began an investigation along with a separate inquiry by counsel hired by the county.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

 
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