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Interview With

Aired July 14, 2003 - 19:37   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How much privacy do you have when you use a department store fitting room or the bathroom, for instance? Even if you close the door, could someone actually be watching your every move in the privacy of their own home?
In these days of miniaturized technology, you just might be surprised at the answer. You're about to meet one woman who was very surprised, in fact.

But first, we get details on her story from Doug Richards of our affiliate in Atlanta, WAGA.


DOUG RICHARDS, REPORTER, WAGA, ATLANTA (voice-over): It began with an innocent trip to this Alpharetta toy store. By the time Tamara Perez left the store on March 21, she says the innocence was gone.

TAMARA PEREZ, TOY STORE CUSTOMER: It is a horrible, sickening thing to realize that a private moment, that someone could be watching you live, probably is.

RICHARDS: Mrs. Perez says she went to the store's ladies room. While occupying a stall, she saw a hole in the ceiling. She called her husband, Walter.

WALTER PEREZ, CUSTOMER'S HUSBAND: You had to do some convincing to actually get me into the ladies' restroom, because I didn't want to go in there. Yes, I could tell right away what it was. It had a lens on it and some sort of transmitter attached to it. So I knew was some sort of camera.

RICHARDS: Inside the ceiling, he found this inexpensive and cleverly hidden video camera. Alpharetta police say the attached transmitter was capable of sending the video signal outside of the store.

SGT. CHRIS LAGERBLOOM, PID, ALPHARETTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Unfortunately, at this point, we really don't know where that image went. We don't know if it went to possibly a car in the parking lot or somewhere else in the store.

RICHARDS (on camera): Mr. Perez says the camera's placement in the restroom was no accident. When he looked at it, the camera was attached to an extension cord with the cable stretched through the ceiling and elaborately attached to the ceiling's beams.

TAMARA PEREZ: It was disgusting.

RICHARDS: Now the Perezes are suing the toy store. A corporate spokeswoman issued a statement saying, "Toys 'R' Us takes the safety and privacy of all our guests very seriously. The camera found was not one of our surveillance cameras, nor was it placed with any knowledge of anyone associated with Toys 'R' Us."

AUDREY TOLSON, CUSTOMER ATTORNEY: My client was in there for two minutes and found that camera. Toys "R" Us should have found it by now.

RICHARDS: Adding to the intrigue, the store received an anonymous letter postmarked two days later, saying, "I heard you found the camera." But police don't know who sent it and have no leads as to who placed a video camera in a toy store restroom.


COOPER: Well, that report from Doug Richards of WAGA in Atlanta. And Tamara Perez joins us now from Atlanta, along with her attorney, Audrey Tolson. Appreciate both of you joining us.

Tamara, you were eight months pregnant when this happened. And when you first saw this camera, what went through your mind?

PEREZ: Shock at first, and after the initial shock, I started thinking about the children that were in and out of the store all day. And my husband works in technology, so when he explained to me that the transmitter was feeding out footage live, I was pretty shocked.

COOPER: How did store employees react? I mean, obviously you and your husband brought this to their attention. And it wasn't like this thing was just, you know, suddenly placed there. I mean, this had a cable running to another room. Did they say anything about how long they thought it had been there? How did they react?

PEREZ: Well, no, the officers were pretty -- they were pretty shocked also that the cable was connected the way it was, up through the ceiling, connected to beams, plugged into a room that only a handful of employees at Toys 'R' Us could have had access to. So we knew right away that the toy was responsible. I was a little shocked that we didn't hear from them.

COOPER: Why sue them? I mean, you're now taking them to court. What do you want?

PEREZ: Well, it started that we just wanted an apology would have been nice, first of all. Secondly, we would like that Toys 'R' us would find out who was responsible, find the person, prosecute them, and then make it so that this could never, ever happen again, especially in a children's toy store. Toys 'R' Us would not comply. We haven't heard from them, or my husband and I have not, not even in an apology. And the person that's responsible of this works in that store. There is no explanation that anyone else could have put this camera in a place that no one has access to but employees only.

COOPER: We should point out, just as they did in that piece, you know, we contacted Toys 'R' Us. They gave the statement saying, quote, "We tell you that that -- the camera found was not one of our surveillance cameras, nor was it placed with any knowledge of anyone associated with Toys 'R' Us."

Audrey, is that good enough for you?

AUDREY TOLSON, ATTORNEY: No, that's not good enough. Toys 'R' Us has complete custody and control of that bathroom, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So for them to just say, Well, it wasn't us, that's not good enough. They should have found it. Tamara was in there for a couple of minutes, and she found it, so there is no excuse.

COOPER: What do you make of this other letter that they then allegedly received a couple of days later, says, "Yo, yo, what up, I heard you found the camera," and then there was an expletive written there. What do you think that's about?

TOLSON: Well, Toys 'R' Us's initial explanation of that letter was that they received it from a former employee. My response to that is, a former employee doesn't have that kind of access to your facilities. Maybe this person worked there before, but when they planted that camera, they were still employed by Toys 'R' Us, and they're still their agent, and Toys 'R' Us is still responsible.

COOPER: Tamara, has this changed the way you act, I mean, in public, in a bathroom, or in stores?

PEREZ: Absolutely. A lot of my friends are telling me the same thing. We're all a little precocious now.

COOPER: Understood. I can see why you would be. Tamara Perez and Audrey Tolson, appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

PEREZ: Thank you.

TOLSON: Thank you.


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