JAMAICA — The Department of Sanitation worker who claimed he was pistol-whipped and robbed by two men while plowing the streets of Queens actually got into a fight after trying to solicit a prostitute while on duty, police sources said.
Michael Morelli, 31, was arrested hours after he claimed two men beat him and took his cash and cellphone at around 4 a.m. near Liberty Avenue and Guy Brewer Boulevard, according to the NYPD.
He initially told police he was approached by a man from behind as he worked alone clearing snow from a fire hydrant. Another man came later after he tried to fight off the first suspect and pistol-whipped the worker before fleeing, according to his original story.
But when investigators checked surveillance cameras at the intersection where Morelli said he was attacked, they saw the worker but they did not see the incident, sources said.
Morelli was brought back to the precinct and eventually confessed that he first solicited a prostitute in the area and later got into a fight with two men, police sources said.
“Once confronted with video of that location, that’s by detectives in Queens North, he immediately recanted and gave a statement that he was with a prostitute at the time and got into a fight with two individuals in front of the residence of the prostitute, and that’s how he received the injury," NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Thursday.
Morelli, who has been with the DSNY less than 18 months, was brought to Jamaica Hospital Wednesday morning but released, and he told police he had bruising from the attack.
The worker, who was on duty at the time, was charged with filing a false report, issued a desk appearance ticket and released, police said.
He is due in court on March 11, according to the Queens District Attorney's office.
"[Morelli] is out with an injury; disciplinary action pending his return," Belinda Mager, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Department, said in an email Thursday morning.
Reps for the Sanitation workers union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, said Wednesday that he "wished it was just a one time thing but unfortunately sanitation workers have been held up before."
Sources told DNAinfo New York there is some street prostitution in the area, specifically around South Road and 153rd Street.