An Egg Harbor Township man who could be connected to a string of sexual assaults in Atlantic City had his first appearance in the city’s Municiapl Court on Monday.
Hiten A. Patel, 34, of the township’s Cardiff section, is accused of raping a woman at gunpoint Thursday night in Atlantic City after he allegedly forced his way into the car, claiming to be a detective. A fake gun was later recovered inside the van police towed after Patel’s arrest. He is also charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault in the June 27 attack of a woman picked up in Ventnor.
But he could be tied to at least five other reported assaults, authorities have said. And there could be others that have gone unreported because some of the victims may be involved in prostitution.
Patel appeared before Chief Municipal Court Judge Bruce Ward on Monday via video from the Atlantic County jail, where he is being held on $1 million bail. Patel told Ward that he received copies of the charges against him and has retained a private attorney.
His attorney, Joseph Levin, was not in court Monday morning but spoke to The Press of Atlantic City afterward.
“Mr. Patel is a family man with no prior criminal history,” Levin said. “We plan on vigorously defending the charges. No one should rush to judgment until all of the facts come to light.”
Levin’s first step will be to file for a bail-reduction hearing.
“The $1 million bail far exceeds the bail guideline amount,” Levin said.
The Department of Homeland Security has also been notified to put an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer on Patel, who is a native of India, Atlantic City Prosecutor Jonathan Diego said.
Patel is jailed on three complaints that each carry several charges, including aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, criminal restraint and impersonating a police officer. More charges are pending, if he is linked to the other crimes.
He worked for a contract company at the William J. Hughes Technical Center but is not an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration. His access card has been deactivated, the FAA said Monday.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter