(Updated May 25 at 12:04 p.m.)

A Hesperia school bus driver has been arrested and accused of stealing from students, teachers and volunteers during field trips.

Officers of the Hesperia Unified School District Police Department arrested Susan Corona, a Laidlaw bus driver, on Wednesday, May 16. She is accused of stealing from her passengers when her bus was locked up, with the passengers' valuables inside, during field trips.

"Apparently, there were some reports by bus officials and school officials that a series of thefts were occurring on buses on field trips," HUSD police chief Bob Mosley said Wednesday. "It was narrowed down to one specific bus driver."

Mosley organized a sting operation to determine whether Corona was stealing from her passengers and to catch her in the act.

"We took a purse and we placed all kinds of kids' articles in it along with $21 in marked US currency and we also Xeroxed the currency that was used," he said. The money was then put into a zippered interior pocket of the purse, "so we knew it couldn't drop or fall out."

Corona was tapped to drive on another school bus, but this time, she had a ringer on board as a passenger.

"We had one of our adult employees pose as a parent volunteer and we had her make sure she was the last one off the bus, which she did," Mosley said. "She placed her purse on the bus and made sure which seat it was on by counting the seats."

Once off the bus, Mosley's undercover operative allegedly watched as Corona unlocked the bus and go back inside.

"She saw [Corona] bend over the exact seat where she had been seated and had left the purse."

When the field trip ended, and the district employee go back on the bus and checked her purse, Corona had allegedly taken the bait.

"The $21 was missing. This was all in a five to six minute duration, no one else was on the bus and she never lost sight of the bus," Mosley said.

Corona was approached and arrested off-campus.

"A search revealed a bank check cashing card from another parent who had her wallet stolen two weeks previously on another field trip."

She was arrested and charged with theft, and booked at Victor Valley Jail. She was subsequently released on bail. Corona is currently on suspension at Laidlaw.

Laidlaw -- which operates school buses in much of the nation -- runs background checks on all prospective drivers, according to company spokeswoman Tiffany Bloniarz.

"It's a criminal record check, and it's for every new driver who's hired," Bloniarz said. Corona "had obviously passed the background check."

The small amounts Corona allegedly took from her targets may have helped keep anyone from realizing what was going on for some time.

"There's so many kids and parents, and they think, oh, I miscounted how much money I had, or I lost it somewhere," Mosley said. "But there's this sheer volume of thefts here."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.