Bustamante Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

Pool photo by Michael Goulding

Former Santa Ana City Councilman and ex-Orange County executive Carlos Bustamante in court in May 2014.

Carlos Bustamante, a former Orange County executive and one-time rising star in the local GOP, pled guilty late Friday morning to multiple sex crimes and theft of public funds, according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Bustamante pled guilty to felony counts of stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint and grand theft by false pretense, as well as misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, assault and attempted sexual battery.

Bustamante, 50, is expected to be sentenced to one year in jail and five years of formal probation, as well as mandatory lifetime sex offender registration starting Jan. 2016, according to the press release.

According to his attorney Brent Romney, Bustamante is likely to appear in court and begin serving time on Jan. 22nd.

“The issue has always been with Mr. Bustamante that if it were to go to trial, there was a reasonable possibility he would be convicted. If we went to trial, he could be convicted and go to prison, versus probation and some jail,” said Romney.  “The DA was very reasonable and straightforward and we negotiated very vigorously for an extended period of time.”

Romney said it is still unclear where Bustamante — who was a Santa Ana City Councilman at the time of his arrest — will serve out his jail time.

“Because of his background as a former police officer and city councilman, there’s a concern for his safety,” said Romney. “So the DA agreed to give us some time to arrange for a custodial setting or some other facility other than jail where he will be safe.”

Between 2009 and 2011, while an employee at OC Public Works, Bustamante is accused of victimizing several women working below him. Bustamante pled guilty Friday to crimes against five women.

Bustamante originally faced 12 felonies and four misdemeanors for sexual assault and other allegations over an eight-year period involving at least seven women who worked for him at the public works department. However, those charges were reduced twice by different judges before the case was set to go to trial in January.

The charge of grand theft relates to a trip Bustamante made in 2010 to attend a two and a half week workshop at the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston. He was reimbursed a total of $3,150, in violation of county policies.

The Bustamante case devastated the top echelons of the county bureaucracy, leading to the ousting of three top county executives, including then CEO Tom Mauk. They were pushed out after it became clear that the Human Resources department did not properly investigate allegations against Bustamante when they first surfaced.

Former Public Works director Jess Carbajal, who was fired shortly after Bustamante’s arrest, filed a wrongful termination suit against the county. A trial date has not been set.

The Bustamante scandal also prompted District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to call for the formation of a public integrity unit to address what he described as “the growing number of complaints and investigations of crimes involving people holding public office.”

At Friday’s hearing, DA prosecutors read statements from Bustamante’s victims.

“Before the assault, I would socialize, network and frequently attend work events…As much as I tried to avoid being in this situation, it doesn’t matter because I still got violated,” one victim said in a statement. “This is something I will have to struggle with for the rest of my life.”

A spokeswoman for the DA’s Office, Roxi Fyad, declined to comment citing a policy not to speak with Voice of OC.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Talulah

    Sexual Harassment in the work place? Hardly! We are talking about Sexual Battery per the California Penal Code. Apples and Oranges.

    And while we are at it – not terribly familiar with the other cases you mix into this for some reason – do those not involve 16/17 year-olds – hardly ‘children’ and a statutory offense, but nowhere near as serious as sexual battery – which is contact AGAINST another’s explicit will. What difference does it make what the age of the person is? Are you calling that okay or non-serious?

  • Gunny98

    I love to see politicians fall on their sword.

  • Conor Geagan

    This man is the father of my sisters best friend. He has three children and his wife divorced him after these allegations were brought up. His children all go to a CATHOLIC elementary school. It is disgusting and scary to think that his man has talked to my little sister and was in close proximity to her. SMH

  • octaxpayer

    So how many civil suits will come out of this? A number in the County knew about this and did nothing.

  • Talulah

    Wasn’t that long ago that Councilman Bustamante voted to ban all those required to register as s e x offenders from all public parks, museums, libraries and other tax payer funded venues. This included people with misdemeanors, from as far back as the 1950s. This ill fated ordinance was swiftly challenged and ruled unconstitutional, as expected.

    Registered S e x Offender Bustamante might want to send a formal thank you note to these brave citizens and supporters of the Constitution.

  • Debby Bodkin

    I am shocked with Bustamante’s guilty plea…. sexual harassment in the workplace amongst adults is one of the oldest wrongs in history and is easily solved with proper training and follow up. Is this new case precedent as I have never heard of any District Attorney filing criminal charges against an adult for sexual harassment against another adult in the workplace. There has to be more to this story…. too many holes.

    One thing for sure, there are some very happy civil plaintiffs attorneys that have filed wrongful termination lawsuits against the County of Orange, laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Tall Talk

      if stopping sexual predation is simply a matter of proper training and follow up, why is recidivism so horrible? sexual predation at work is even worse because the targets are in an environment controlled by the predator.

      the only way to hit people like this where they hurt is their bank account. you can’t shame them or punish them or rehab them. they dont care. the only thing they care about is money, so that’s what has to be done.

  • Bob Brock

    Am I a conspiracy theorist to think that this release on Friday the week before Christmas was part of the Bustamante plea agreement to minimize the PR impact?

  • LFOldTimer

    Agree w/ Zenger. Bustamonte may well be guilty of s#x crimes – but there were lots of accomplices who turned a blind eye and who walked away scot-free. If that happened in most other felony cases the accomplice(s) would likely get charged too. Try to turn a blind eye to child abuse even if you aren’t an active participant. See what happens. I guess this means that Bustamonte will never get his chance to become a Supervisor. Or is there still hope? IMO with the state of affairs in modern-day politics nothing is off the table. Nothing surprises me anymore. Rules are made to be broken.

  • Paul Lucas

    The Bustamante scandal also prompted District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to call for the formation of a public integrity unit to address what he described as “the growing number of complaints and investigations of crimes involving people holding public office.”

    Really? Damn man not even T Rack can get the Feds in here to do their job?! wtf??!!

    • LFOldTimer

      Hey, the PIU took down Webster Guillory. So hold the sarcasm. 🙂

      • Paul Lucas

        Oh right, I forgot, retaliation for him ratting out Miguel Pulido fior corrupt real estate dealings is waaaaaaaaayyy more important than any of this eh? and he only had to pay a small fine for his quid pro quo real estate deals. I think the DAs office is the one who ran guillroy through the ringer. Not the PIU. Thats federal.

        • LFOldTimer

          PIU is Federal? Then why is the County funding it? The Supes voted to spend a mil or so to start it up. Is the County funding federal agencies now? It was my understanding that the PIU fell under the umbrella of the DA’s office. Maybe I’m mistaken. But I don’t think so. If I’m right Webster Guillory was a Class 1 case for the PIU. ha. Boy, did they catch the motherload there, eh? ha. Inadvertent signature gets Webster a bigtime conviction and even the #1 attorney Barnett (who got the killer cop acquitted of murder with a ton of video and audio evidence) can’t even get him off. ha. The wacky world of the criminal justice system! 🙂

          • David Zenger

            The “PIU” was just a scam to get Rackauckas a budget augmentation back in the Spring of 2012. Naturally the Supes didn’t dig the name – it implied a real mission and actually turning over stones to see what lurk beneath. Can’t have that.

          • LFOldTimer

            The PIU is, in fact, a county deparment within the DA’s office, right? I thought so. It’s like most investigative departments that the BoS creates. They’re used to bully those in county government who aren’t connected insiders or who dare to walk to the beat of a different drummer (eg. Webster G.). If you think the PIU is bad wait until they concoct this new OIR. ha. That’ll make the hairs on the back of your necks stand straight up! That’ll turn lots of political enemies into whipping boys. The Public Defender will toe the line and do whatever the BoS wants for fear of an internal investigation. Anyone assigned a DPD is in a world of hurt once the new OIR is up and running. Heroes like Scott Sanders will fall by the wayside. They won’t even leave the starting gate. Mark my words.

          • David Zenger

            The PIU, if anything, is a unit in the DAs office. I doubt if it is anything but the same old cast of characters doing the same thing (very little).

            The DA whitewashed Ackerman, Pulido and constantly ignored the shenanigans of Larry Agran and office jumpers like Harry Sidhu. In 2010 Rackaukas actually endorsed a candidate for Fullerton City Council that he had previously rung up on one of those “spit and acquit” deals.

            There has never been, and will never be integrity upheld by this DA. It’s not in his DNA.

  • Paul Lucas

    “Because of his background as a former police officer and city councilman, there’s a concern for his safety,” said Romney. “So the DA agreed to give us some time to arrange for a custodial setting or some other facility other than jail where he will be safe.”

    Really? How many other rapists get hat deference? As far as I know they keep them in all jail facilities just isolated from other inmates. This is not normal.

    • Diego Vega

      A serial predator, who is well connected in the OC GOP, gets an extremely light sentence to be served in a Club Fed facility/spa. All to avoid the spectacle of the BOS members, Mauk, Crown, Giancola, and countless senior managers/enablers testifying what they knew and when.

      Just when I think the corruption can’t get worse they prove me wrong.

      • Kathleen Tahilramani

        You nailed it. Nice summary of exactly what happened.

  • David Zenger

    I always said that boy would turn out bad.

    Seriously, what happened to all the tough talk from Rackaukas back in 2012 about the climate that permitted Busty to prey upon his female subordinates? We know that a damning report was issued by an independent investigator in September of 2012 – long before charges were brought. We know that CEO Tom Mauk had it, and that he gave it to Bill Campbell – who conveniently later claimed not to have read it. We know it ended up in Carl Crown’s safe as Bustamante was permitted to quit and get THREE MONTH’S PAY. It wasn’t discovered until 2013 when Hughes tripped over it. Then the DA acted.

    C’mon. Tony what happened to accomplice-after-the fact?

  • RyanCantor

    Wow, don’t like what the VoC has to say, boycott the VoC.

    Don’t like what a judge has to say, boycott the judge.

    Don’t like what a victim has to say . . . is that what’s next?

    Someone didn’t get a “plays well with others” score in grade school . . .