LOS GATOS — A South Bay woman has been charged with hosting a series of illegal parties for her son and his friends at which investigators say she supplied alcohol, pushed them to binge drink and manipulated them into having sex with intoxicated teenage girls — in some cases, facilitating sexual assaults.
Shannon Bruga, also known as Shannon O’Connor, is awaiting extradition to Santa Clara County after she was arrested Saturday in Ada County, Idaho, where she has a home in addition to her residence in Los Gatos that is currently on the market.
She faces 39 criminal charges, including 12 felony counts and 10 misdemeanor counts of child endangerment, one count of misdemeanor sexual battery, three counts of misdemeanor child molestation, and 13 misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors.
In an investigative outline submitted by prosecutors, the 47-year-old Bruga is characterized as being obsessed with using text messages and Snapchat to organize secret booze-filled parties attended by as many as 20 teens, in which she was the lone adult and where she often pushed them into drinking to a point of illness or unconsciousness.
“It took a lot of brave children to come forward and to untangle this deeply disturbing case,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in statement. “As a parent, I’m shocked. As the DA, I’m determined to hold those adults who endanger children fully accountable to the law and our community.”
There was no immediate indication that any of the teen boys described as engaging in sex acts with inebriated girls at Bruga’s parties will be prosecuted. Any charges filed against a minor are typically not public record.
“It’s just so terrible what she did to my daughter and these other children,” said the mother of one of the girls, who isn’t being identified because her daughter was a victim of an alleged crime. “My heart breaks for these kids. It’s been devastating. It’s a worst nightmare for a parent.”
The parties reportedly spanned from June 2020 — amid the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic — to May 2021 and included at least a half-dozen large events and several smaller gatherings involving mostly 14- and 15-year-olds.
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A prevailing element of the parties, as the teens reportedly told investigators, was that Bruga encouraged the teens to have sex or engage in sex acts, with the minors in various states of inebriation suggesting that many of the sexual interactions were not consensual.
Bruga’s son at the time was a player on Los Gatos High School’s freshman football team, and the mother of one of the girls said the boys involved were teammates. That mother said she raised concerns about the drinking with coaches and school officials at the beginning of the year but that she was told that since it was off campus there was nothing they could do.
“I really don’t think the high school has taken responsibility for their piece of this,” the mother said.
In a statement, the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District said it actively investigates “any issues that arise on our campuses and work closely with law enforcement to support their investigation into matters that take place outside of school.”
“It is important to note that we take the topic of underage drinking very seriously and work continuously to promote awareness and dialogue in our classrooms and our community,” the statement said. “Additionally, parents and families also play a crucial role in setting clear expectations for the behavior of our young people and in monitoring their activities. Only together can we effectively address social issues such as substance abuse.”
Bruga was reportedly adamant that the teens who attended these parties keep them secret, and she is accused of helping teens sneak out of their homes at night and driving them to her house. According to investigators, she is accused of bullying at least one teen she suspected of breaking the secret.
She also allegedly went to great lengths to conceal the parties from her husband Robert Amaral, who is currently chief revenue officer of SlashNext, a Pleasanton-based tech firm.
The physical toll on attendees of the parties was extensive, as alleged in the court documents. Several teens reported drinking to the point of heavy vomiting, and the intoxication was to a level where one teen broke a finger.
Investigators say that Bruga witnessed a boy punching and kicking a girl who was intoxicated and didn’t intervene.
Bruga is also accused of leading a boy into a bedroom where the same girl was lying on a bed “and going in and out of consciousness.” After Bruga left the room, the boy allegedly digitally penetrated the girl.
The girl told investigators that she confronted Bruga after the incident, telling her, “Why did you leave me in there with him? Like why did you like do that? Like you knew like what he was going to do me.”
To which Bruga allegedly “just laughed at” the question, according to the court document.
The girl also told investigators that at another party, she almost drowned in a hot tub because of her intoxication. The girl reported that on that same night, one of Bruga’s son’s friends digitally penetrated her in the hot tub and fondled her later in a bedroom and that Bruga laughed while witnessing the acts.
The boy involved in those acts reportedly told investigators “he was so intoxicated from the alcohol provided by (Bruga) that he has no memory of this occurring.”
Another account alleges that on Dec. 19, Bruga drove her son and two of his friends in her SUV while they were drinking alcohol and allowed at least one of them to drive, unlicensed, in the parking lot of Los Gatos High. At one point her son and his friend hung off the back of the vehicle while it was moving, and the friend fell and hit his head, becoming unconscious for up to 30 seconds.
The alleged scheme was almost exposed then, after someone saw the aftermath of the fall and called 911, prompting a police officer to catch up to the vehicle at a nearby minimart. But Bruga was reportedly able to convince the officer that the vomit-filled SUV was a product of the boys’ car sickness. The injured boy “spent the night vomiting, and almost drowned in the tub due to his intoxication,” according to investigators, who added that a doctor later confirmed he had a concussion.
It was one major sign that parents were getting word of what was happening.
Segments of the investigative outline suggest other signs Bruga was actively trying to avoid police attention. For a Halloween party she threw last year, she reportedly called police ahead of time to tell them about the gathering in an attempt to preempt any potential noise violations.
Investigators stated that they determined Bruga threw at least two parties outside of her Los Gatos home. An October 2020 party at a Santa Cruz cottage for her son’s 15th birthday — attended by a dozen teen boys and girl — caused $9,000 in damages.
And investigators say they found evidence Bruga threw a party in Lake Tahoe on Feb. 15 in which she “concocted a story” for teens to tell their parents about the trip, including assurances that no alcohol would be involved and that girls would be staying in different rooms from the boys.
Bruga’s criminal history includes active felony grand theft charges after she was accused of illicitly charging $120,000 to an employer’s company credit card. Under the name Shannon O’Connor, she pleaded no contest to three counts of filing false insurance claims in 2009.
“Everyone should feel relieved this woman’s not on the street,” the mother of one of the girls said. “She was grooming these kids, setting them up for sexual acts, and she’s a mother and doing this to her own child. … I’ve been racking my brain trying to think what was in it for her.”
Julia Prodis Sulek contributed reporting for this story.
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Los Gatos woman charged with running secret teen parties filled with booze and sex – The Mercury News