Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 4:23 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 4:54 p.m.
An employee at a North Las Vegas agency that assists victims of domestic violence was arrested Tuesday for attempting to coerce a woman into having sex with him instead of working her community service hours, North Las Vegas Police reported.
Police said the incident occurred Sunday when a 24-year-old woman reported to the SafeNest Donation Center at 4208 Arcata Way, in North Las Vegas, to discuss her duties. She reached Benedetto Vitale, director of operations, planning to talk about working off court-mandated community service hours.
Instead, officials said, Vitale tried to pressure the woman into having sex with him in exchange for signing off on her community service hours.
Vitale, who has worked for SafeNest for eight years, was charged with one count each of open and gross lewdness, forgery and sexually motivated coercion.
Officials said North Las Vegas Police detectives are looking into the possibility of other victims during Vitale’s time at SafeNest.
SafeNest public information director Lisa Chapman said the allegations stand in stark contrast to the nonprofit organization’s mission and hoped they would not shake the confidence victims seeking shelter have in SafeNest.
Chapman said Vitale’s position did not involve contact with victims of domestic violence, and dealt only with donation center volunteers.
“We are hoping that what we hope was an isolated incident does not shake the trust of our community and what we do,” Chapman said. “We are cooperating fully. It is our intention to do an internal investigation, work with police and make sure the right thing is done by all persons involved.”
She said Vitale was placed on administrative leave.
SafeNest, according to its website, has been in operation since 1977, and offers “confidential assistance including shelter, food, clothing, counseling, education and other services to individuals experiencing domestic violence.” An executive director heads the nonprofit agency, which is overseen by a board of directors.
Officials urge anyone with more information regarding the case to call the North Las Vegas Police Department at 702-633-91111 or to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.