Hospital Maintenance Man Charged in Peeping Tom Case

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , January 4, 2010

A maintenance man at Sanford Hospital in Rock Rapids, IA, was arrested after he allegedly confessed to using "peepholes" to spy on female employees in a rest room.

The suspect, John David Elias, 55, also allegedly admitted that he discovered, stole, and unsuccessfully attempted to destroy a hidden surveillance camera that was used by authorities to identify the "peeping Tom," says Lyon County Sheriff Blythe Bloemendaal.

"The tip came to us from an employee of the hospital. I sent two guys up and they determined that the holes were drilled. So, we knew somebody was actually doing it. There was a step ladder set up in the storage room to access the holes," Bloemendaal says.

Sheriff's investigators plugged the holes, and then hid a camera inside the storage room and pointed it at the step ladder. "No reason to go up the ladder other than to access the holes," Bloemendaal says. "It's in there for a few days and they go in to retrieve the memory card to review it to see if he had accessed the ladder and the camera is gone. So no doubt in my mind he goes up the ladder, sees the holes are plugged, starts looking around, sees my camera, destroys it and throws it in a dumpster in a town 20-something miles away."

Bloemendaal says Elias confessed to investigators, and told them where they could find the destroyed camera in a dumpster in the nearby town of Sibley. "Mr. Elias did confess to my detective of doing this," Bloemendaal says.

A telephone message left at Elias' George, IA, home by HealthLeaders Media was not returned.

Elias, who had no prior criminal record, was arrested on Dec. 27 and charged with misdemeanor counts of invasion of privacy, third-degree theft, and tampering with evidence. He was freed after posting $2,000 bond, the sheriff's office reported.

The restroom was used exclusively by hospital employees, and no patients were accosted, said Ed Weiland, president of the Sanford Health Network. "There was no HIPAA violation. This was an employee-only area. We did a complete search of the facility to make sure this were no other violations," Weiland says.

Elias no longer works at the hospital. "I don't know if discharged is the word or if he resigned. All I can tell you is that he is no longer employed here," Weiland says.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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