By Rebecca Henely
The hunt for the man who inappropriately touched two young girls in a Jackson Heights apartment complex may have ended with the arrest of Mario Lopez, 52, who was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court last Thursday, the Queens district attorney’s office said.
Lopez, of Chauncey Street and Broadway in Brooklyn, was charged earlier that day with burglary, burglary as a sexually motivated felony, luring a child, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of the child after he allegedly encouraged a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old girl to follow him into the complex’s laundry room Nov. 5 and touched them, the DA said.
“The defendant is accused of being a sexual predator,” District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. “Such an allegation makes him a threat to children and a clear and present danger to society in general.”
Lopez had allegedly gone into the complex, on Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Jackson Heights, around 7 p.m. Nov. 5 and parked himself close to the elevators, the DA said. Lopez had been waving to the children passing by and approached the two girls, telling them he needed help with his laundry, the DA said. When they got inside the laundry room, Lopez allegedly hit the 9-year-old girl on her buttocks and touched the younger girl beneath her clothing, the DA said.
Lopez had also allegedly asked the older girl if she wanted him to buy her candy before he fled the scene, the DA said.
The girls, who are not related, each described to their families what happened and the girls’ families informed the authorities, the DA said.
The charges against Lopez could send him to prison for up to 15 years if he is found guilty, the DA said.
The morning before the announcement, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) distributed fliers alerting the community about the incident and asking them if they had seen the suspect. The arrest had not been announced until later in the day.
“A crime like this is horrific,” he said.
Dromm, who lived in the building where the abuse occurred during the 1980s, said he had heard complaints about security, although the complex does have an extensive camera surveillance system that caught multiple images of the suspect.
Johnny Garcia, the superintendant of the building, said all residents need a key to get inside the building. He said the suspect had gained access to the entrance on 37th Avenue by following a woman in and then went to the laundry room.
“This is the first time we have had this problem,” Garcia said.
He said he had never seen the man at the apartment complex before.
The DA said others who may have been hurt by Lopez should contact NYPD’s Crimestoppers, which can be reached by calling 1-800-577-TIPS, by going online and visiting its website at crimestoppers.com or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and texting TIP577.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.