Police: Manager Recorded Asking Volunteer for Sexual Favors (U.S.)

Posted on July 28, 2012

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LAS VEGAS —An investigation has been launched into how the non-profit Safe Nest can improve its screening process for staff.

The action comes just days after a manager was arrested on charges of trying to get a volunteer to have sex with him in exchange for community service hours. The man’s accuser captured the alleged proposition on cell phone video. Safe Nest is taking these allegations very seriously.

North Las Vegas police arrested 59-year-old Benedetto Vitale on one count each of sexually motivated coercion, forgery and open or gross lewdness.

An official for the non-profit, which helps victims of domestic violence, said those charges are contrary to everything it stands for.

According to the arrest report, a 24-year-old volunteer was serving community service for a DUI arrest Sunday at the Safe Nest donation collection center near Craig and Losee roads.

The director of operations, Ben Vitale, 59, and the woman were in his office when he kissed her on the mouth and asked her for a sexual favor.

If she agreed to perform the sexual favor on a weekly basis, Vitale told her he would sign off on her court-ordered 171 hours of community service, according to the arrest report.

The woman turned on her cell phone video camera and recorded the conversation. After telling Vitale she needed to go outside for a cigarette, he left the room and she took her paperwork from his desk and left the center.

She then went to police and after officers viewed the video and questioned Vitale, they arrested him Tuesday.

Safe Nest spokeswoman Lisa Lynn Chapman said the organization screens staff with background checks, drug tests and other screening processes.

“Background checks can only tell you so much,” she said. “This has been very, very hard.”

The organization helps more than 50,000 southern Nevadans every year, such as 58-year-old Anya Stout.

“I was stunned with disbelief,” she said. “I’ve put my life in their hands for two years and five months.”

She said she and others feel completely safe and are satisfied with Safe Nest’s screening process.

“This a separate entity from the donation center, where they sort through things,” she said. “Here they’re dealing with our minds and our spirits and our souls.”

Chapman said the woman who went to police did exactly what Safe Nest encourages its clients to do in these situations.

“She did everything right,” Chapman said. “We teach you how to use your phone as a tool because that’s what it is.”

The non-profit hopes the public will judge it on its record and not the arrest.

Chapman said the organization is bringing in a third party to evaluate its hiring process. If changes are suggested after the review, the organization will make them.

Police said other victims may be out there and should contact the North Las Vegas Police Department.

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