A convicted--and electronically monitored--sex offender pleaded guilty Wednesday to bothering and following a 13-year-old girl at a Foothill Ranch Ralphs supermarket the day after the Fourth of July.
Steven Neil Paff, a 46-year-old transient, copped to a single felony count of annoying or molesting a child under 18 years of age with a prior conviction. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 5.
Paff, who changed his plea from the not guilty he told the judge at his July 26 arraignment, also pleaded guilty in October 1998 and May 2009 to indecent exposure. He was wearing an ankle monitor when he followed the girl from aisle to aisle at the supermarket while her mother waited in the car. After the creeper tried to strike up conversation and mentioned his first name, the girl fled to a checker for help. One store employee confronted Paff while another escorted the girl to her mom's car.
When told what had transpired in the store, the mother had her daughter, who was still visibly upset, lock herself inside the car before mom went into the store to confront Paff. They exchanged words before he split. She ran after him and jotted down the make, model and license number of the car he sped off in.
The mother contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which patrols Lake Forest, including the Foothill Ranch community. As deputies launched an investigation, she spent a week scouring photos posted on the state sex offender database thanks to Megan's Law. She eventually found Paff's photo and notified sheriff's investigators.
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Thanks to his ankle-monitoring device, he was arrested near his car parked in Orange. The charge of annoying and molesting a child under 18 is considered a felony if the defendant is a registered sex offender like Paff.
At the time of his arrest, deputies and prosecutors said they were trying to find other possible victims of the creeper. A Los Angeles County police agency reportedly contacted the sheriff's department about Paff. However, court records indicate Wednesday's proceedings only covered the lone case.