A son of Buc-ee’s co-founder Don Wasek has been arrested for 28 counts of making invasive visual recordings of persons who were visiting his family’s residences and other locations.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Mitchell Wasek is accused of secretly recording images at his father’s house on the banks of Lake Travis in the Austin area via a camera hidden in a charging port plugged into the wall of a bathroom.
Court records obtained by San Antonio’s KXAN show that the 28 charges were filed in the 167th District Court in Austin.
According to Travis County District Court, a warrant was issued for Mitchell Wasek’s arrest on Friday, September 29. He was arrested Tuesday, October 3, and was released one hour later on a $280,000 bond, representing $10,000 per charge.
Wasek allegedly recorded videos in several locations across multiple states
The Chronicle reported that a group of friends found a micro SD card in a camera in the bathroom and then discovered videos of themselves and others who’d been in bathrooms and bedrooms during visits to the lake house and Mitchell Wasek’s apartment in Dallas.
According to an affidavit, a warrant was obtained to review the images and videos, and a detective found 68 video files containing at least 13 male and female individuals being recorded in what appeared to be 8 different rooms. Investigators said that some of the videos were manipulated and/or deleted.
Authorities said the victims were recorded while “using toilets, showering, changing clothes, and/or having sex.”
The camera that was used to record the videos was found to have a recording function activated by motion detection. The camera was also designed to automatically record over earlier videos when the cards reach their maximum capacity, investigators said.
The videos were found to have been recorded in several locations dating back to 2021, including a downtown Austin condo and a vacation home in Colorado owned by the parents of Mitchell Wasek, 28. Some of the videos were recorded in October of 2022.
No recordings were linked to Buc-ee’s convenience stores, a national chain of country stores and gas stations often found along highways. Founded in 1982 and expanded beyond Texas in 2018, the chain is based in Lake Jackson, Texas, which is in Brazoria County, near Houston.
Under Texas law, such invasive visual recording is a state jail felony. That crime can bring punishments of 180 days to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Court documents showed that in May, a woman reported that she and some friends were invited to the Wasek family’s lake house. There, one friend who works in cybersecurity noticed a charging port with a hidden camera plugged into the wall of their assigned bathroom.
After discovering the camera, the group left the residence and reportedly went through its micro SD card. While looking through the MSD card, they allegedly found videos of themselves and other people.
“They were unaware that the recordings existed in the bedroom and bathroom, and indicated they did not consent to being recorded or photographed,” the arrest affidavit stated of the victims.
Recent cruise ship case also involved hidden camera
Earlier this year, a similar case arose when a hidden camera was found in a restroom on a cruise ship.
The FBI investigated and arrested a man for using the hidden camera on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, which left Miami for a 7-day cruise on April 29, 2023. After the camera was discovered by a passenger, the man was arrested on May 3 during a cruise stop in Puerto Rico.
He was charged with video voyeurism and attempted possession of child exploitation material, according to court documents for the criminal complaint.
The man was released 5 days later under the third-party custodial watch of his wife after posting an unsecured bond of $25,000.
CBS News reported that the bond’s conditions included that the man surrender his passport and not have any internet access. He was also ordered not to have unsupervised contact with any minors, including his own children.
Child involvement makes a voyeurism charge worse
When children are targeted in a sexual offense such as video voyeurism or invasive visual recording, the offense becomes much worse under Texas law, and the punishments are more severe.
Texas voyeurism punishments
According to Texas Penal Code Chapter 21, which concerns sexual offenses, voyeurism alone—which may not include a camera—involves viewing other persons’ intimate behavior for sexual gratification and without their consent. Such voyeurism is a crime when the victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy inside a structure or dwelling.
Voyeurism is a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law, carrying a punishment of community service or a fine of as much as $500.
The offense is elevated to a Class B misdemeanor if the defendant was previously convicted 2 or more times of such an offense. Then, punishments can be as much as 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
Further, if the victim was a child younger than 14 years of age at the time of the offense, the crime of voyeurism is a state jail felony under Texas law. Punishments for that crime can include 180 days to 2 years in jail with no chance of parole and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Texas invasive visual recording punishments
The Texas crime of invasive visual recording arises when a camera or recording device is involved. Under Texas law, the offense means an offender, “without the other person’s consent and with intent to invade the privacy of the other person,” photographs or by videotape or other electronic means “records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of an intimate area of another person if the other person has a reasonable expectation that the intimate area is not subject to public view.”
The law also states that the offense applies “when the other person is in a bathroom or changing room,” as occurred on the cruise ship.
Do I need a Houston sex crime defense lawyer?
If you live in the Houston area and have been accused of such an offense, you may be wondering if you need a local criminal defense attorney specializing in sexual offenses. Given the range of punishments, which can be severe, you should contact an attorney who can defend your legal rights.
Notify the Neal Davis Law Firm today of the sex crime charge or allegation against you, and we can arrange a private consultation for your case.