PLEASANTON -- An Oakland woman accused of leaving her young children inside a car ignored an officer carrying one of the children while they were looking for her in the casino, according to a police affidavit.
Phaley Nget, 37, was arraigned Thursday on two misdemeanor child endangerment charges in a Pleasanton courtroom, where Judge Jacob Blea declared her a flight risk and ordered her held in custody until she can post $100,000 bail.
Livermore police say they were called to Casino 580 about 6 p.m. Monday after bystanders spotted Nget's two children, ages 2 and 3, strapped in their safety seats in an unattended car in the parking lot. The children, who have since been placed into protective custody, were not injured.
Officer Scott Harrison wrote in a probable cause declaration that when he arrived, the 3-year-old was crying and asking for her "Mommy."
When two officers went looking for a parent in the casino with the 3-year-old in tow, "Nget walked directly past" the officers and "made no attempt to contact them," Harrison wrote. "Nget then ran across the street to where her vehicle was parked."
Nget told police that she was away from the vehicle for five minutes so she could use the casino's bathroom, Harrison wrote. She later recanted the statement and said she was gambling.
The casino's video surveillance showed Nget was in the casino for 26 minutes, police said. She gambled at several tables, but never entered the bathroom, according to Harrison. She had $80 in gambling chips when she was arrested.
Harrison wrote that Nget's car was parked in a stall shaded by a tree, and the side rear windows were covered "in an attempt to shade or conceal the children from view."
The National Weather Service reported that the temperature in Livermore was about 75 degrees shortly before 6 p.m. Monday. Police recorded the temperature inside the car, with the doors open, at 81 degrees upon retrieving the children.
Leaving children inside cars can have deadly consequences, even on a cool day, because cars can heat up quickly, police said. Children's body heat regulatory systems are also less efficient than an adult's, causing them to overheat up to five times faster.
Nget's public defender on Thursday asked the judge to release Nget on her own recognizance because she has other children to take care of and has no prior criminal record -- only a few previous vehicle violations that have been expunged.
But the judge stuck with the $100,000 bail and denied the attorney's request, citing the severity of the crime and the fact Nget might flee the area. Nget is scheduled to return to court July 28.
The case echoed another recent incident in which a San Jose woman was arrested at a Sonoma County casino. Maria Yadira Mondragon-Barboza, 37, was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment shortly before midnight June 30 when a Sonoma County deputy patrolling a parking structure at Graton Casino spotted a 10-year-old girl and her 1-year-old brother in a car with the keys still in the ignition.
It was not immediately clear if Mondragon-Barboza, who was found at a Starbucks inside the casino, had been gambling. Police said she had left the children in the car for about 20 minutes.
Staff writer Joyce Tsai contributed to this report.