Embarrased cops collared a second alleged sex fiend on Monday — but were forced to drop the charges two days later after the victim who supposedly picked him out of a lineup recanted.
It was a wild week for the NYPD, which first trumpeted the arrest of Joshua Flecha, a bartender at the Heartland Brewery in Manhattan, who was allegedly caught masturbating between parked cars on 17th Street near 10th Avenue in Windsor Terrace.
Cops then said that the 32-year-old Queens resident had been picked out of a lineup and connected to a May 7 incident where a man grabbed a woman’s breasts, exposed himself and masturbated in the entrance to the Seventh Avenue F-train station.
But the charge did hold up, and the masturbator got off, leaving the NYPD empty-handed amid growing local frustration of the pace of the investigation of what are now believed to be 20 gropings in and around the South Slope.
“The NYPD did not make a mistake,” a police source said. “When the witness says, ‘It’s him,’ and then it’s not him, it’s not our fault. Of course, we’re frustrated.”
Only one man has been arrested in eight-month crime spree; cops have linked him to a lone grope in Sunset Park.
Meanwhile, there are six police sketches posted in many area businesses. And the attacks keep coming.
The latest attack by the fiend or fiends was on Oct. 13, when a 26-year-old victim was groped near Seventh Avenue and 17th Street at about 10 pm by a creep who claimed to have a knife. She screamed, and he fled — a pattern that resembles many of the prior attacks.
Four days later, cops say that they saw Flecha at 2:30 am on Greenwood Avenue near E. Fourth Street in Windsor Terrace and again 45 minutes later, loitering near a line of parked cars. When they got out of their squad car, they found him with his pants unzipped, watching porn on his cellphone, cops said, adding that Flecha also had pot in his possession.
Flecha had been arrested in connection with one of six heretofore unknown subway attacks — all in the Seventh Avenue station near Ninth Street from March to July — that detectives added to the fiend or fiends’ spree.
With the dismissal of charges against Flecha, no one has been arrested in those attacks.
“I was skeptical from the beginning,” said Aaron Brashear of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights. “It seemed too good to be true. The reality is, if you were attacked back in May, how could you [remember]? I applaud the victim for realizing her mistake.”
So do Flecha’s co-workers in Manhattan, who never believed he was guilty of groping women.
“I am 100 percent sure that’s he’s innocent,” said one worker, who did not give his name.