A man who jumped bail and ran off to the Netherlands after allegedly punching a 9-year-old girl and sexually assaulting her has been apprehended, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced Tuesday.
Peter Belegrinos, 29, whose last known New York address was on 24th Street in Astoria, fled the country in 2006 when he was facing charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to kidnap the 9-year-old from Astoria Park and endangering two of her companions.
According to the DA, on August 8, 2005, Belegrinos, who worked as a psych tech at Elmhurst Hospital, allegedly approached three children — a boy and girl, both nine years old, and a 12-year-old girl. He is said to have asked them to play a game he described as a “kissing game.” At that point, the 9-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl ran away.
Belegrinos then allegedly told the 9-year-old girl to get into his car so that they could catch up with the other two children. The girl, running away from Belegrinos in fear, ran toward the boy, who was hiding in nearby bushes. From the shrubs, the children said they saw Belegrinos drive over to where they were hiding and get out of his car to run toward them. They said Belegrinos ran through the bushes and punched the girl in the face, knocking her to the ground, before lifting up her skirt and sexually abusing her. Belegrinos allegedly covered her mouth with his hand while she attempted to scream and told her, “Can’t you ever shut up?” According to the complaint, the boy, who had witnessed Belegrinos grab the girl and knock her to the ground, started screaming and alerted a number of passersby.
Belegrinos was arrested on Monday at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on a warrant charging him with bail jumping in the Queens case.
“If the defendant thought that law enforcement authorities would forget about him after five years, he was sadly mistaken,” District Attorney Brown said in a statement. “His alleged offenses are said to have occurred in a public area in broad daylight. Such allegations make the defendant a threat to children and a clear and present danger to society. His long overdue arrest also proves the old adage: You can run but you cannot hide.”
However, according to Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Belegrinos might not have had the chance to run if his bail, which was set at $50,000, was higher as the councilman requested.
“This monster should never have been given the opportunity to flee and endanger children every second he evaded capture,” said Vallone.
When Belegrinos failed to appear in court, as Vallone predicted, the councilman held a press conference alerting parents that he was on the loose. He has stayed in contact with authorities regarding their search.
Belegrinos faces 15 years in prison if convicted on the attempted kidnapping and other charges, and four years on the bail-jumping charges.
According to Vallone, Belegrinos faces a lesser sentence for the sexual assault than he would if the crime were committed today. To ensure sex offenders would face increased jail time, Vallone sponsored a resolution which was unanimously passed in the City Council in 2006, calling on the state to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. The state’s child predator laws have since been strengthened.
Belegrinos was expected to appear this week before an examining judge in the Netherlands on the matter of extradition.
The DA expressed his sincere appreciation to the Royal Netherlands Military Police, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, Interpol, the United States Department of Justice, the United States Marshal Service, the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, the United States Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Department for their assistance with the investigation.