NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A 25-year-old homeless man has been arrested for sexually assaulting young girls in Queens.
Lee Samuel, who has no known address, was charged with having sexual contact with two 7-year-old girls on separate occasions in the South Ozone Park section of Queens, District Attorney Richard Brown announced Tuesday night.
“The defendant is accused of being a sexual predator. Such an allegation makes him a threat to children and a clear and present danger to society in general,” Brown said in a news release. “Such conduct, if proven true, cannot go unpunished.”
On Tuesday night, the suspect was brought out of the NYPD Special Victims Unit in East Harlem to later be transferred to Queens Criminal Court for his arraignment on Wednesday.
Samuel was charged with a first-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child in one complaint, and forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child in another. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison, CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis reported.
The attacks began last Wednesday when police said a man grabbed a 7-year-old girl on the buttocks while she was in front of her own house playing with her older sister. The girl was tying her shoe on the sidewalk when the man allegedly groped her.
Several hours later the same day and about two miles away, the man allegedly approached the second girl as she jumped a fence to retrieve a basketball.
He allegedly asked the girl if she wanted to play a game. He told her to cover her eyes with her hands and stick out her tongue, and she opened her eyes to see that Samuel had exposed himself, prosecutors said.
He then allegedly grabbed the girl by the waist and engaged in a sexual act with her.
In an incident on Thursday that’s possibly related, police said a man exposed himself to a 13-year-old girl from inside a van and then trailed her for several blocks. Prosecutors did not mention any charges against Samuel stemming from that incident.
All three incidents happened near 115th Street and Sutter Avenue in South Ozone Park.
Samuel reportedly has multiple prior arrests, including two for sex offenses, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
According to sources, Samuel was staying with a friend in Upper Manhattan, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported. The friend became suspicious and called police after Samuel came to him and told him he needed a place to stay, adding that he was in trouble, Rincon reported.
It was not clear whether the friend will be eligible for the $12,000 reward offered in the case.
As CBS 2’s Dennis reported, parents in South Ozone Park were greatly relieved upon hearing about an arrest.
Nanda Abdool said the arrest made her feel “a lot better, trust me. My mom lives right down the block and my baby is always there.”
Another neighbor, James Clavell, said he hoped police had the right man.
“Are they sure?” he said. “You know, because the thinking is like, you know, you got to make sure the guy is caught, because he’s going around. He might attack another girl.”
Neighbor Serkan Kucuk said the children in the neighborhood could not even understand their vulnerability.
“They’re way too young to even have this mentality in their head of man going around,” he said.
Prior to Tuesday’s arrest, police had been beefing up patrols in the neighborhood with at least eight extra cars and a mobile command center serving as a makeshift precinct.
Officers were also posted at schools in the area.
“We simply cannot let the streets of Queens or anywhere else become places where girls and young women are unsafe,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Monday. “If this individual looks familiar, and you’re hesitating picking up the phone – the victim here was a 7-year-old girl. Just remember that.”
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