NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – There has been an arrest in a sexual assault case that has haunted both residents and law enforcement in New Jersey.
As CBS2’s Steve Langford reported Friday, the suspect allegedly used a fake position of power to take advantage of his victim.
The man is not a police officer, but on the afternoon of May 6 he played one, Essex County prosecutors said, in order to prey on a trusting young woman.
“An individual was arrested in the city of Newark for impersonating a police officer,” said Anthony Ambrose of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Luis Pena, 47, was in custody Friday and stands accused of luring a 23-year-old Newark woman into his car near Broad Street and flashing a police-type badge, on the premise he needed help searching for a suspect in the neighborhood.
“She believes she’s assisting him. She gets into the car with him. They drive around the downtown area of Newark,” Essex prosecutor Clara Rodriguez said.
The phony cop first took his victim by police headquarters in Newark, according to officials, apparently to bolster his fake law enforcement scheme.
Once the young victim realized she wasn’t in the hands of a real police officer, the suspect drove her to the Lincoln Park area, parked his car, and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.
The suspect then drove his victim home, prosecutors said.
Pena has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, impersonating a police officer, and criminal coercion.
“(He was) threatening to arrest her if she did not engage in the sexual act,” Rodriguez said.
Local residents, not unfamiliar with violent crime, were stunned.
“I’m not surprised by something like that, but I never heard of nobody impersonating a police officer,” said Newark resident Ebony Harris.
“It questions everything else, our safety,” another person said.
Pena seemed awfully practiced at posing as a police officer, prosecutors said.
“So maybe we are thinking there may be others out there who have encountered this person,” Rodriguez said.
The whole saga has been labeled a chilling violation of trust.
The suspect was scheduled to be arraigned in Essex County Criminal Court on Monday, Langford reported.