A 37-year-old registered sex offender with a lengthy criminal record pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of exposing himself to female passengers on Orange County buses.
Stephen Ponte Garcia is charged with two felony counts of indecent exposure with prior convictions stemming from incidents that allegedly happened on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.
Deputies assigned to a unit patrolling Orange County Transportation Authority property took Garcia into custody Tuesday on an arrest warrant stemming from a three-week investigation, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
An anonymous tip about a bus flasher last month triggered the investigation. Detectives reviewed bus surveillance video, which helped lead them to Garcia, according to the sheriff’s department.
Investigators allege he exposed himself at least four separate times on buses serving routes in the northern part of the county. He allegedly “flashed” female passengers as he sat in the rear of the buses.
Court records show indecent exposure cases against Garcia dating back a decade.
Garcia entered into a plea deal in March 2015 involving a November 2014 indecent exposure case. The deal also disposed of multiple other cases, including a guilty plea to petty theft for stealing from a Sears store in Costa Mesa, according to court records.
He also pleaded guilty in March 2015 to another case of indecent exposure, a felony, and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. Misdemeanor counts of lewd conduct in a public place and loitering where children are present were dismissed. As part of the plea deal, Garcia has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Garcia pleaded guilty in October 2006 to another indecent exposure on March 20 of that year, and was sentenced to nine months of jail and five years probation. He was found in violation of probation and sentenced to 45 days in jail in March 2011 and another 60 days in jail in January 2012, according to court records.
Garcia pleaded guilty in March of last year to misdemeanor loitering on private property in Lake Forest
Investigators suspect there may be more victims and asked anyone with information to call them at (714) 265-4340 or (714) 647-7000. Anonymous tips may be phoned in to the Orange County Crime Stoppers organization at (855) TIP- OCCS.
—City News Service
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