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Columbia University Development Exec Arrested For Sexual Assault Of A Minor

Marcelo Velez

A Columbia University real estate executive has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing a child younger than 13 years old.

Marcelo Velez, 53, was arrested at his home in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, Monday and charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault by contact and endangering the welfare of a child, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office said in a press release Tuesday.

Velez serves as Columbia's vice president for Manhattanville development, and is "the University's point person on all aspects of development, design and construction" for its 6.8M SF campus expansion in the Manhattanville neighborhood of West Harlem, according to the Ivy League school's website.

Velez was arrested a day after the Woodcliff Lake Police Department received a complaint that he had "engaged in sexual acts with a child under the age of 13" at his home, according to the Bergen County prosecutor. After an investigation by the prosecutor's Special Victims Unit, Velez was served with an arrest warrant Monday and is in custody awaiting his first hearing.

The prosecutor's office did not provide specifics regarding Velez's alleged criminal acts, nor did it identify what relationship he has with the victim.

“We have placed Mr. Velez on administrative leave and will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials investigating this matter," a university spokesperson said in a statement to The New York Post. 

Velez has worked for Columbia since 1995, including leading capital projects for Columbia's main campus in Morningside Heights. The school said he has led over $1B in construction projects over the years.

The Manhattanville expansion Velez has led has been in the works for nearly two decades. It was criticized for displacing business and thousands of residents as the university and city pushed forward on the 17-acre, $6.3B project, which is expected to be complete around 2022.