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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The man behind a Times Square costumed character is under arrest for allegedly groping a 16-year-old girl’s chest.
Ranulfo Perez, 48, of Passaic, who dresses in a Cookie Monster costume, was arrested Monday, police said.
Perez is accused of pulling the girl into a hug and forcibly touching her Sunday evening, police said.
Last year, reports of misbehaving costumed characters prompted numerous calls for regulation.
In November, the City Council held a hearing on a proposal to regulate costumed characters in Times Square, which would require they be licensed and pass background checks.
The bill followed the arrests of several characters. In September, a woman dressed as Elmo was arrested on an aggressive panhandling charge. Days before, two men, one dressed as Batman and another dressed as Spider-Man, were arrested after a brawl with another man, police said.
Other incidents included a Spider-Man allegedly punching a cop, an Elmo being arrested for allegedly harassing people and yelling anti-Semitic slurs and a “Toy Story” Woody allegedly groping women.
In August, police distributed fliers to tourists saying tipping was not required when taking photos with the Elmos, Mickey Mouses, SpongeBobs and Statues of Liberty that flock to the area. Many of the people who dress to make ends meet said tipping plummeted.
Hello Kitty, played by Manuel from Los Angeles, has been working the Strip for the past three months. He declined to give his last name because his student visa expired years ago and he's afraid of being deported.
"This is a dangerous job because you don't know who you're dealing with," Manuel says.
He started performing his cat routine on the streets of Hollywood more than a year ago. Then he, along with several other costumed characters, was arrested last summer for aggressive panhandling, he says. Several of them decided to try their luck here because they heard that there were more tourists in Las Vegas, says Manuel, who took to the costumed life after he was laid off from his manager job at El Pollo Loco.