A licensed security guard from San Francisco posed as a police officer in an effort to sexually assault recent Central American immigrants, authorities said Monday.
Jeffrey Bugai, 35, persuaded at least two men with limited English-speaking abilities to go to his home, police said. Once there, officials said, Bugai would drug or handcuff them or try to coerce them into performing sexual acts.
Investigators believe some victims of Bugai -- who was known to frequent the Mission and Ingleside areas of San Francisco as well as Oakland and Hayward -- have not come forward because he threatened them with deportation or police retaliation.
As a result, investigators are unsure how many victims there might be or how long Bugai ran his scheme, said Officer Albie Esparza, a San Francisco police spokesman.
Bugai was arrested July 10 before San Francisco prosecutors charged him with two counts of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense and single counts of attempted forced sodomy, attempted forcible oral copulation and assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense.
He pleaded not guilty at his July 15 arraignment and is being held on $2 million bail. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, said Monday that he was still looking into the case and could not comment.
Bugai has a history of impersonating people in positions of authority. In 1999, he was accused of wearing a white coat and posing as a health care worker at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich., on at least three occasions, according to local prosecutors.
In one instance, he allegedly recommended to a nurse that a patient's pain medication be increased.
Bugai told reporters at the time that he was just visiting friends at the medical center. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a health profession title, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, said Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg.
On the Classmates.com page for Traverse City High School, where Bugai said he graduated in 1997, a person identifying himself as Bugai posted that he got a job as a pharmacy clerk at Munson Medical Center and "ended up getting in a lil trouble while trying to amuse myself."
He said he had no trouble becoming a security guard in California after moving to the state, writing, "Fortunately no one out here takes (Traverse City) police reports seriously."
According to California online records, Bugai has been licensed in the state as a security guard since 2002 and has special permits allowing him to carry a gun and baton while on duty.
Russ Heimerich, a spokesman with the state Department of Consumer Affairs, said the agency began the process of suspending Bugai's license when it was alerted of the investigation last month. If Bugai is convicted, he will be stripped of his license immediately.
Heimerich said it was not clear how Bugai was able to obtain a license with a prior misdemeanor conviction. He said that a conviction for a crime like impersonation would "absolutely" be a red flag in the application process.
"We would look at it and think, 'If this guy is impersonating people, do we want him to be a security guard?' " Heimerich said.
Heimerich said he does not know if the agency was notified in 2002 of the prior conviction. He said the state's ability to track down such information has since improved.
Bugai also said he had gotten a job with the San Francisco Housing Authority, but agency spokeswoman Rose Dennis said Monday that there is no record of his employment.
"I don't believe he was ever a police officer," Esparza said. "He may have had some security paraphernalia, but we don't know if he was actually a security officer. He was never one of ours, never with San Francisco police."
A woman filed for a civil restraining order against Bugai in San Francisco in 2007, records show. Bugai himself has sought restraining orders against three different men, including a roommate, since 2010.
In one request, Bugai claimed to be a "proprietary patrol officer" in the Bayview neighborhood and said he had a partner who patrolled the Mission District. It wasn't clear Monday which security firms had employed Bugai.
Investigators are asking people with information to call San Francisco police at (415) 553-0123.
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