Calif. city councilman faces sex offense charges

A Southern California city councilman was charged with sexually assaulting seven women when he was a high-ranking county executive in what prosecutors said Tuesday was an abuse of power and public trust.

Carlos Bustamante, 47, a former Orange County Public Works administration manager, is facing a dozen felony charges ranging from false imprisonment to sex offenses during his work at the county over eight years until he resigned his post in 2011.

Bustamante, who is currently a Santa Ana councilman, called female employees to his office under the pretense of discussing work and hugged, kissed and grabbed them, and sometimes masturbated in front of them, prosecutors said.

The women were extremely reluctant to come forward, fearing they would lose their jobs for speaking out against Bustamante, who had a high-ranking position and was considered by some a rising star in Orange County politics.

"This case exemplifies an abuse of power, an abuse of position, abuse of women and abuse of trust," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

Bustamante was arrested Monday and released on $100,000 bond that night. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday on six felony counts of false imprisonment, three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, and single counts of stalking and attempted sexual battery by restraint.

Other charges include misdemeanors and sentencing enhancements and one felony count of grand theft by false pretense. Prosecutors say he received $3,100 in tuition reimbursement from the county for training he had agreed to pay for.

A phone message left for Bustamante at his home in Santa Ana on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

The allegations come amid a spate of public corruption cases across Southern California involving elected officials and high-ranking public sector employees.

Prosecutors began investigating Bustamante in March after receiving a report from Orange County detailing the allegations, Rackauckas said. That report was drafted in response to an anonymous letter.

Rackauckas said the statute of limitations prevented additional charges involving other women from being filed.

If convicted, Bustamante could face more than 26 years in state prison.

Bustamante resigned from his county job last year. He was elected to the City Council of Santa Ana in 2004. The city of 325,000 people is located about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.