SARANAC LAKE - The director of the Saranac Lake Youth Center has been arrested for allegedly raping a 13 year-old girl.
Michael J. Scaringe Jr., 61, of Saranac Lake, was charged Friday with first-degree rape, a felony. State police Investigator James Monty said Scaringe - who went by the last name of Josephson when he was growing up in Saranac Lake - forcibly raped a 13-year-old girl who frequented the youth center.
"He's the director of the youth center in Saranac Lake, so he knows a lot of kids, and she was one of the kids that goes there," Monty said.
Michael Scaringe is charged with rape in the first degree.
(Photo — New York State Police)
Monty said the alleged rape happened before Christmas, although he declined to say more specifically when, or if it occurred at the youth center. He said the victim told her parents, who then contacted police, who interviewed the girl.
"She said he forced himself upon her," Monty said.
Monty said investigators tried to move quickly on the case because Scaringe is the director of the youth center. Scaringe has also had been working as a substitute teacher at St. Bernard's Catholic elementary school.
"We don't want to expose any more kids if he has more access," Monty said, adding that he wasn't aware of any other allegations against Scaringe.
Scaringe was hired in September as the new director of the youth center. He went to school in Saranac Lake when he was known as Michael Josephson. He apparently changed his name at some point before 1996 and had been living in Florida in recent years.
SLYC Board President Doug Zobel said he wasn't aware of the rape allegations against Scaringe when contacted by the Enterprise Friday night. He described it as a "surprise" and said he was disappointed.
Zobel declined to answer additional questions about Scaringe, his hiring or his tenure with the youth center, other than to say the center's board will be meeting to discuss the situation.
"We need to get together and talk about the future of the center and what's going to happen," Zobel said.
St. Bernard's Principal Anne Bayruns said Scaringe had served as a substitute teacher three or four times in the last few months. She said she was "very unsettled" by the news, which she first heard from the Enterprise.
"We did a background check, and it came back just fine," Bayruns said. "He subbed first grade, second grade and fifth grade. He was a good sub, and the kids loved him."
Scaringe had also applied to be a substitute teacher in the Saranac Lake Central School District, but his application was denied, Superintendent Gerald Goldman said.
Goldman called the arrest "shocking."
"I feel terrible for this girl, and I feel terrible for the youth center," he said.
The fact that Scaringe had changed his name apparently played a role in school officials' decision not to hire him as a substitute.
"When he applied to be on our substitute teaching list and I heard he changed his name, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up," Goldman said. "I have no idea why he changed his name. But I just didn't have a good feeling."
Scaringe had also worked in the past for the Tupper Lake Central School District, Goldman said.
Monty said Scaringe had no prior criminal record, although the Enterprise has learned that Scaringe was acquitted of molesting a 14-year-old girl when he worked as a substitute music teacher at a school in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The girl had accused Scaringe of touching her breast and buttocks, hugging her, kissing her and rubbing the front of his pants against her crotch, according to an April 24, 1996 report in the St. Petersburg Times. But Scaringe's attorney told the jury that the girl had concocted the story to avoid being punished for skipping class.
Harrietstown Judge Tom Glover sent Scaringe to jail on $100,000 bail, to reappear in court Monday.
Police say more charges are pending.
Contact Chris Knight at (518) 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Editor's note: Some readers have asked why the Enterprise didn't allow comments at the end of this online story. Here's why: I feared that with such an horrific accusation, such a forum could potentially lead to people expressing wishes to do harm to or kill the defendant, and also abusing and possibly identifying the victim - things we cannot allow here. It was a tough call because there is obviously a great deal of legitimate material to discuss in this important story. What clinched my decision was that it was the weekend, and we Enterprise editors don't monitor the comments as much on the weekend. During the week, we would take down an abusive comment fairly quickly - on the weekend we might not see it for a couple of days. There will be plenty of opportunity to comment on the story as it unfolds, but I wanted to take the edge off what might be the worst of it. It's not a perfect decision, but I felt it was more fair than the alternative. --Peter Crowley, managing editor)