A 69-year-old school bus driver has been charged with having sexual contact with three girls between the ages of seven and nine aboard his bus in the past two months, prosecutors announced today.
Nelson Painchault, of 37th Avenue in the Corona section of Queens, was arraigned Friday morning before Queens Criminal Court Judge Suzanne Melendez on a criminal complaint charging him with eighteen counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
He is alleged to have committed the acts between September and November 2010.
The shocking case came to light when one of the girls told family her members, who then contacted school administrators, who notified authorities.
“The charges are disturbing on so many levels," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. "School bus drivers have a responsibility to safely transport the children under their care to school and thereafter return them to their parents. The defendant is accused of betraying that trust by engaging in inappropriate contact with them. Such conduct cannot go unpunished.”
Brown said that, according to the charges, Painchault sexually abused the three girls on multiple occasions between September 9 and November 3, by inappropriately touching their private parts over their clothing while on the bus.
Painchault, who faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, was ordered held on $100,000 bail and is set to return to court on December 6, 2010.
According to prosecutors, Painchault worked for Adrilliz Transport, Inc., a private bus company in Corona, for eleven years before being fired earlier this month.
But Adrilliz seems to have changed its name to "German Transport" -- and no one there immediately returned phone calls.
Painchault had been assigned to drive students to four Queens schools: P.S. 19 in Corona, P.S. 28 in Corona, I.S. 5 in Elmhurst and I.S. 73 in Maspeth.
His lawyer, James Bernal of Legal Aid, cautioned that his client is innocent until proven guilty.
"The defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I take this very serious no matter how disturbing the accusations," Bernal told NBCNewYork.
"This case is at its beginning and we are in the process of a comprehensive investigation. It would be wise not to rush to judgment, before all the facts are known," he added. "Mr. Painchault has no criminal record, he has an excellent work history, spanning more than a decade, and I hope the media and the public will keep this in mind."
Prosecutors said that any other individuals who believe they may also have been victimized should call NYPD Crime Stoppers: 1-800-577-TIPS.