He is a bus driver. He told a kid he ‘loved her’ and played with her hair, cops say.

Leonard Villari
Leonard Villari

A Sarasota County bus driver is charged with battery after a 13-year-old middle school student said the driver made unwanted contact with her.

An investigation started on Feb. 13 when the student reported to officials that 71-year-old Leonard Villari approached her in the school cafeteria and played with her hair, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Villari, of Venice, allegedly winked at the girl after entering the lunch line and touched her hair and neck again later, according to the sheriff’s office.

Surveillance video from the school cafeteria was obtained by deputies, which the sheriff’s office says corroborates the girl’s statement.

Villari admitted to smiling at the girl and playing with her hair, according to a probable cause affidavit. He also told officials he knew the girl from his job.

The girl also told investigators that last year Villari allegedly called her “baby girl,” told her he loved her and said he knew where she lives, according to the sheriff’s office.

Villari, charged with one county of battery, was released Wednesday on a $25,000 bond.

If he returns to work, Villari would not drive a school bus or have contact with students, pending the judicial outcome of the case. He will be assigned to other duties in the Sarasota County School District Transportation Department, according to the sheriff’s office, citing Sarasota County schools.