29-year-old charged in series of Burnaby groping incidents

A 29-year-old Burnaby man has been charged with four counts of sexual assault in connection to a series of alleged groping incidents in the city.

The string of sex assaults began in the spring and continued even after the man’s initial arrest, according to police.

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On April 12, Burnaby RCMP got a report that a teenage girl had been groped from behind by a man on Hastings Street in North Burnaby.

The teen told police a man had run up to her, grabbed her buttock and tried to talk to her. The man then fled from the area.

Less than a month later, on May 8, another teenage girl reported being groped from behind, this time on Willingdon Avenue in North Burnaby.

Police obtained security video footage of both incidents and determined the same suspect had been involved in both assaults. 

After a six-month investigation, police arrested Jorge Benjamin Bernal on Aug. 21.

Police said a search of his home revealed clothing that matched clothing worn by the suspect on CCTV images.

Bernal was released pending charges, police said, but then allegedly went on to commit two more sexual assaults.

On Sept. 20, he allegedly inappropriately touched a case worker who had been assigned to work with him, according to police, and, on Nov. 6, he allegedly groped a community support worker who was assisting him with finding accommodation.

Bernal has now been charged with four counts of sexual assault.

“This was a traumatic experience for these victims and our high risk offender unit has been working on this investigation as a priority for a number of months,” Burnaby RCMP Insp. Matt Toews said in a press release. “These investigators left no stone unturned and their diligence has resulted in serious charges being laid against the suspect.”

Bernal is out on bail but must abide by 22 conditions, including no contact with anyone under the age of 16 and not travelling on any public bus unless travelling to an approved meeting or appointment.

Bernal’s next court appearance is on Jan. 15.

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