Bobby Ray Talavera said he was just trying to pee into a cup in the back of his UPS truck when he looked up and found himself staring into the lens of a tiny, hidden camera up high on a wall.
Drivers routinely urinate in their trucks, Talavera said, during busy days with little time to find a restroom.
Talavera assumed this was a UPS urination sting. Turns out, he wasn't so lucky.
Talavera, 41, of Plant City was arrested last week by the Polk County Sheriff's Office and charged with misdemeanor theft and tampering with evidence in a joint local and federal investigation in regard to Department of Veterans Affairs narcotics that have been disappearing from UPS trucks.
The 16-year UPS driver is accused of removing the memory card from the camera and replacing it with one of his own, which Talavera denied. While the Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit said Talavera is a suspect in the theft of drugs, he is only charged with stealing the memory card.
In an interview, Talavera denied stealing anything. In fact, he said he did not know he was a suspect in a stolen drug investigation until reading his arrest affidavit after a reporter provided him a copy. He said he assumed UPS was spying on him.
"I felt humiliated when I saw the camera," said Talavera, who has a clean record except for a 2000 arrest for failing to pay child support.
A sheriff's arrest affidavit said it is investigating the disappearance of up to 20 packages containing drugs, including oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, that have disappeared from UPS trucks out of a facility in Lakeland since January.
The drugs were being shipped by the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa to veterans in north Lakeland, Polk City and Plant City, the report said.
A Haley VA spokeswoman declined to comment Monday.
Hidden cameras were put on several UPS trucks, the report said.
One of those cameras showed Talavera on July 16 reading the labels of parcels similar to those shipped by the VA, then shaking them as if to determine what was inside, the affidavit said.
On Sept. 10, the Sheriff's Office said, Talavera removed the memory card from the camera.
The missing memory card was later found outside a convenience store in the Hillsborough community of Mango.
The recording on that memory card, the Sheriff's Office said, showed Talavera opening packages. Investigators also said Talavera "takes several empty white plastic bags consistent with VA shipping bags and throws them" on a shelf in the truck.
The report does not say if those bags came from parcels Talavera had opened. And if he did open parcels, the report does not say why he was not charged for doing so. The Polk Sheriff's Office said it would not comment on the investigation.
Pinellas attorney John Trevena, who represents Talavera, said his client insists investigators are casting innocent actions as having criminal intent. "He is very adamant that those are erroneous conclusions drawn by the investigator," Trevena said.
Talavera, who was fired by UPS on Friday, said he moved the camera so it would not film him urinating. He denied taking the memory card. He said his union told him he was within his rights to move it since company surveillance is not allowed. The union could not immediately comment.
UPS spokesman Dan Cardillo said the company would not comment. He said UPS sometimes takes steps including "surveilling employees when we have reason to believe customers' packages are at risk."
As for its drivers urinating in their trucks, UPS indicated no such thing takes place.
The company said drivers have ample breaks for meals and "other needs."
Contact William R. Levesque at email@example.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.