Sanitation Worker Arrested for Lying About Attack: NYPD

The sanitation worker sent to the hospital with injuries after he was assaulted on a Queens street has been arrested for lying about the attack, police say. 

Michael Morelli, 31, was issued a desk appearance ticket for filing a false report, police said Wednesday evening. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Earlier in the morning, he told police he was pistol whipped and robbed while clearing snow from around a fire hydrant at Guy Brewer Boulevard and Liberty Avenue.

After investigating, police discovered Morelli had lied about the attack, the sources said. 

NYPD Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce told reporters Thursday that detectives confronted Morelli with video showing a different  account of the attack, and that's when he "immediately recanted" his story. 

Morelli admitted he had actually been out soliciting a prostitute when he encountered two men on the street and got into an argument with them, law enforcement sources first told NBC 4 Wednesday night. That's when the men assaulted him and fled. 

It's still not clear what sparked the altercation or who the aggressor was, the sources said.

"We've got some of the story but not all of the story," said Boyce. "There was no robbery." 

"It was a wild goose chase," he added. 

Morelli, who was on duty at the time, was taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

The account was far different than the one he told his girlfriend, Jaclyn Francin, and her father earlier. She told NBC 4 that he called her after the attack and she met him at the hospital.

"Anytime you get called in the middle of the night, the first thing you're concerned about is safety -- is he OK, is he alive, what actually went down? So of course I was terrified," said Francin, a veterinarian who's known Morelli for 16 years and whom she calls her best friend. 

Her father, Rudy Francin, said Morelli was a hard worker, and had been working ever since the storm: "Comes in, working like 14 hours a day, leaves 7 at night, comes back in the morning." 

When reached on the phone for comment after Morelli's arrest, Rudy Francin was in shock and said he couldn't believe it. He declined further comment.

The Department of Sanitation declined to comment, saying it was a police matter. 

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