Hidden bathroom camera lands store manager in trouble

A 39-year-old man was cited Monday following a two-month investigation into a hidden camera found by a woman while using a restroom at a grocery store in Palo Alto, police said Tuesday.

Benjamin Joseph Clerici, of South San Francisco, was released after being cited Monday for misdemeanor use of a concealed camera without consent with the intent to invade another’s privacy, Palo Alto police Lt. Zach Perron said.

Clerici was the night manager of Piazza’s Fine Foods grocery market at 3922 Middlefield Road where Palo Alto police received a call at 2:19 p.m. on Oct. 15 that a “camera pen” was found inside an employees-only women’s bathroom there, according to Perron.

A woman in her 30s who was a contract employee for Piazza’s went to the ladies room at the store at 11:10 p.m. on Oct. 14 and while seated on the toilet, noticed an object pointing out from supplies on a nearby shelf, Perron said.

The object looked like a writing pen and because it was in an odd location, she picked it up to examine it and realized it was actually a hidden camera, according to Perron. The victim notified her supervisor at Piazza’s and they reported the incident to store management on Oct. 15.

Police were then contacted and store managers cooperated with the department’s subsequent investigation, police said. Detectives eventually presented the results of their investigation to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and on Dec. 23 obtained a warrant for Clerici’s arrest, Perron said.

Police issued Clerici a misdemeanor citation when he self-surrendered at the department on Monday, he said. Officers believe that the camera had been placed in the bathroom shortly before the victim found it and do not think there are any additional victims, he said.