Lynnwood man free on bail after pleading not guilty to four counts of felony voyeurism

Seattle police photo showing the video recording device in an Expedia Group bathroom.

A 42-year-old Lynnwood man pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court Feb. 15 to four counts of first-degree felony voyeurism in connection with video cameras prosecutors say he installed in bathrooms at his place of employment, the Expedia Group’s Seattle offices. He is currently free on $200,000 bail.

Prosecutors allege that Marcello F. Vargas-Fernandez “knowingly filmed, photographed and/or viewed Expedia employees, without their knowledge and consent, in a place where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy…for the purpose of arousing or gratifying…sexual desire.”

According to documents filed with the court, during December 2023 and January 2024, Vargas-Fernandez “placed spy cameras specifically aimed at the toilet in all-gender single-occupancy restrooms.”

The first device was discovered by a 17-year veteran Expedia Group employee on Dec. 4, 2023. He found it attached with tape and Velcro to the underside of a sink facing the toilet in a gender-nonspecific, single-use bathroom. The employee reported this to Expedia security officers, who subsequently discovered a similar device in a second all-gender bathroom. Security supervisors decided not to remove the devices immediately, because they thought these might be “a music device or battery backup for the soap dispensers.”

Word spread quickly around the Expedia workplace grapevine. The next morning, while using the same bathroom where he made the initial discovery, the employee noticed that the devices had been removed and the Velcro was missing. He inquired with security, who told him that they had not removed the devices. But on Jan. 11, while using the same bathroom, the employee discovered that the devices had been reinstalled.

As part of their case, prosecutors allege that it was Vargas-Fernandez who removed the devices after word circulated that they had been discovered, and that he later reinstalled them after initial interest had waned. They go on to say that this demonstrates an “extreme level of continued deception, secrecy and invasion of privacy” and expressed concern that he is “likely to destroy evidence given the ease of moving and deleting photos and videos.” Expedia Group contracts for security services through Securitas Inc.

Prosecutors allege that there were at least 10 distinct victims, and state that it “is reasonable to believe that several more victims have yet to be discovered” as law enforcement officers examine the 15 additional spy cameras, 22 SD cards, and six hard drives with a combined storage capacity exceeding 20 terabytes recovered from Vargas-Fernandez’s Lynnwood residence. Investigators also obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s purchase records with Amazon and found multiple transactions to purchase devices identical and similar to those found in the Expedia bathrooms.

Based on police reports, an arrest warrant was issued, and Vargas-Fernandez was taken into custody on Feb. 1 outside his Lynnwood-area apartment.

At his Feb. 15 arraignment, King County Superior Court Judge David Keenan set bail at $200,000, which the defendant posted immediately via a bail bonding agent.

While free on bail, Vargas-Fernandez must have no contact with all victims or individuals he has reason to know are on the videos subject to investigation, not possess any devices capable of taking photos or video with the exception of a cell phone, and have no internet access beyond an installed computer monitoring system, which tracks access to sexually explicit or pornographic material.

KING TV reported that according to an Expedia spokesperson, Vargas-Fernandez has been fired.

Trial is set for 9 a.m. May 9 in King County Superior Court.

— By Larry Vogel

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