By Conor Greene
A 50-year-old man who works at a Corona preschool has been charged with sexually molesting a 9-year-old girl for whom his wife babysat.
Jose Duran, of 99-18 41st Avenue, who is a custodian at the Therese Cervini Head Start Program on 104th Street, was arrested last week on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree sexual conduct against a child and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
“The defendant is accused of turning a young child’s visits with her babysitter into a terrifying sexual ordeal that not only robbed her of her innocence but will forever soil her childhood memories,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who called the charges “very disturbing.”
According to the charges, the defendant sexually abused the girl in his apartment on multiple occasions between November 1, 2008 and this past March 30. District Attorney Brown is now asking anyone with additional information or who believes that they may have been a victim to contact his Special Victims Bureau at (718) 286-6505.
Duran allegedly warned the victim not to tell anyone, and the actions didn’t come to light until the victim told a guidance counselor that she had been sexually abused after attending a puppet show at her school about sexual abuse.
Following Duran’s arrest, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens immediately suspended him, according to a spokeswoman. While the alleged victim doesn’t attend Therese Cervini, the agency’s early childhood administrators are available to address any concerns parents might have.
“Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens takes allegations of sexual abuse against any staff member very seriously,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our primary concern is the safety of the children in our care. Prior to employment, all staff working with or near children must undergo rigorous background checks. Once employed, all staff must take mandated sexual abuse and child abuse training.”
Criminal checks are performed on all staff members and are rechecked every two years. Duran’s last criminal check was completed in January, according to the spokeswoman. He has worked at the program for more than ten years, cleaning the classrooms daily after the children were dismissed.
“Our children were never left unattended,” the spokeswoman said. “Thankfully, there have been no incidents involving our children.”
The program is operated by Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.