- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas woman said Tuesday that her 3-year-old granddaughter told her that a school bus driver forced her into oral sex during trips to a Las Vegas preschool child development program.

The grandmother, who said she took custody of the child as a baby, told reporters outside court that she believes Michael Ray Banco chose to sexually assault the girl because she doesn’t communicate well.

The woman sobbed and said a 3-year-old doesn’t know how to put together words to describe what happened. The Associated Press isn’t naming the grandmother to avoid identifying a victim of an alleged sex assault.

Banco, 55, made an initial court appearance after his arrest Thursday on 19 charges of kidnapping, child abuse, child sex assault and lewdness with a child. He remains in custody without bail at the Clark County jail.

Banco could face up to life in prison if he’s convicted. He intends to plead not guilty, defense attorney Robert Draskovich said.

Banco drove a small bus transporting about 20 children a day on a specialized route throughout the Las Vegas area, police and school officials said. The alleged sex assault occurred on the bus with preschool and elementary-grade children.

Public school buses in Las Vegas are equipped with security video cameras. Video from Banco’s bus haven’t been made public.

With several Banco family members in the courtroom, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen scheduled a Thursday hearing to set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Police Lt. Dan McGrath said a weekend hotline drew more than 25 calls from parents and possible witnesses, and more charges may be filed.

Charges so far stem from allegations involving two victims, McGrath said.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. We expect to interview possible victims and parents this week,” he said.

Banco has been a bus driver in the Clark County School District since 1995, schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said.

Banco is classified by the district as absent without leave and is not being paid, spokeswoman Michelle Booth said.

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This story has been corrected to report that Michael Ray Banco has a job status of absent without leave and without pay.

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