Friday, May 06, 2005

Smile, perv - you're busted!

Smile, perv - you're busted!

Girls snap cell phone photo in subway & run for cops


A subway pervert was caught in a flash yesterday by feisty Catholic schoolgirls armed with a cell phone camera in Queens, cops and witnesses said.

The suspect sicko flashed the teens twice last week as they rode the F train toward their high school in Jamaica Estates.

He got away - but made the mistake of lurking inside the 179th St. station yesterday just as the girls stepped off the train at 7:30 a.m.

Terrified, but determined to get the creep arrested, one of the girls snapped his photo with her cell phone and ran to NYPD Officer Vincent Tieniber for help, police sources said.

"The cop looked at the picture, ran down to the platform and spots the guy getting on a train," a high-ranking police source said.

"He grabs him and takes him upstairs where the girl IDs him," the source said. "A little bit of new-age policing."

The alleged pervert, 57-year-old vagrant Wilfredo Ponte, was wearing the same brown pants, short-sleeved button-down burgundy shirt, silver jacket and black shoes he had on Monday morning, police sources said. He wore the same ensemble last night when he was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and held on $3,000 bond.

Although police say he told a detective, "Maybe I did it, maybe I didn't," his Legal Aid attorney said Ponte is no flasher.

Lawyer Joseph DiFlumeri said, "Mr. Ponte adamantly denies the allegations in the complaint. He's frustrated, he's upset that he's being accused of this."

The girls' principal at Mary Louis Academy, Sister Kathleen McKinney, said she was proud of her plucky students.

"Our girls wanted him arrested," she said. "They didn't want him doing this to anyone else. They were willing to do what they did to stop him."

A token booth clerk who helped the freshmen from nearby Mary Louis Academy praised them for staying calm and taking the photo.

"The girls came running up. They were really upset, but one had gotten the guy's picture, and wanted him stopped," said the clerk, who asked not to be named.

"For a grown man to be exposing himself to children at 7:30 in the morning, it's terrible," the clerk said. "That girl deserves a lot of credit for getting him off the street."

Ponte was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and public lewdness.

Ponte is apparently homeless - the address he gave cops turned out to be a Bronx bridal shop where one of his longtime friends works.

"He liked little girls," said the friend, Eva Santana, who described Ponte as a homeless man who often visited E&E Bridal on Westchester Ave.

"He liked to see the girls go by," she said. "We used to say, 'Get married, get an apartment.' But he wouldn't do it. He needed help. We told him every day, but he didn't want it."

Ponte targeted the girls because he was attracted by their freshman uniforms - baby blue shirts and gray skirts, a police source said.

Ponte's arrest brought some comfort to the parents and students, even as some of the girls remained shaken.

"I'm in a really bad state of mind," one of the teens said yesterday through her apartment door.

"She's scared," said her mother. "She's only 14."

Caught on camera

Pictures taken with cell phones have helped nab a host of suspects:

# In Utah last week, cops said photos stored in a 31-year-old man's cell phone led to his arrest for sexually assaulting at least two kids. The suspect's friend saw the images and called police.

# Two Atlantic City bandits snapped pictures of themselves carrying an AK-47 that had been used to shoot three men last December. Cops found the photos when a suspect's cell phone kept ringing - as he was being interrogated.

# Last August, a 15-year-old Clifton, N.J., boy helped nab a man who tried to lure him into his car, cops said. The kid used his cell phone to snap the creep's license plate. Cops grabbed the 59-year-old suspect the next day.