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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Indicted officer may have preyed on undocumented women


The New York City correction officer indicted in the rape and robbery of several women at gunpoint in Hempstead may have carefully selected Hispanic women to prey upon, police are probing -- because those women may be more likely to be undocumented and less likely to report the crime.

Ricardo Walters, 42, of 132 Martin Ave. in Hempstead, who was arrested last September when one of his alleged victims flagged down a Hempstead police officer during an attack on Jerusalem Avenue, may have gambled on the premise that his victims were in the country illegally, police said: All but one of his known alleged victims are Hispanic and most are undocumented.

"We want to get the word out we believe many of the victims in this case were largely targeted because they were Latino or Hispanic possibly under the notion that, as undocumented, they may not be forthright and come forward as a victim," said Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said Friday at a news conference. Walters' attorney, Dennis Lemke of Mineola, said he will move to dismiss the case next week when Walters, who is being held without bail at the Nassau jail, is arraigned in court Wednesday.

"Two victims could not identify my client in a lineup," Lemke said. "There's no DNA, no statements or admissions." Police said they connected five cases because they found common criminal methods in the attacks: Walters robbed, then raped or tried to rape each of the women. A Nassau County grand jury indicted Walters on 21 counts in all including six counts of kidnapping, five counts of first-degree robbery, four counts of first-degree sex abuse, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, two counts of first-degree rape and one count of predatory sexual assault.

The charges stem from sexually motivated attacks in which police say Walters brandished a gun and robbed women of cash, as little as $11 and as much as $300, then raped or tried to rape them.

"When it's someone who's sworn to protect the public, taking advantage of his position, the fact that he is legally allowed to carry a gun and then uses that gun to victimize innocent and defenseless people, it's despicable," said Det. Lt. Richard Zeto, commander of the Special Victims Squad. Walters is an 11-year veteran correction officer who worked at Rikers Island.

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