SEX-RAP KARATE TEACHER BUSTED

By ERIN CALABRESE

July 28, 2003 -- An accused sexual predator who jumped bail earlier this year was taken into custody this weekend - at his job teaching martial arts to kids in Washington Heights, authorities said yesterday. Hector Bencosme, 42, was arrested Saturday on an outstanding bench warrant. The black belt was teaching tae kwon do to a dozen kids in the basement of a building at 528 W. 159th St., authorities said.

He was originally arrested on Jan. 13, 2000, and charged with second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

He allegedly attacked a child in the child's home in Washington Heights.

Bencosme was released on bail and never showed up in court, police said. According to his family, he fled to his native Dominican Republic. But for the past two months, Bencosme has been in New York teaching martial arts through his Twins Tae Kwan Do school.

After a dispute with his business partner, Gilberto Santana, he moved his class across the street last week, according to neighbors. Yesterday, some of the parents whose children attended Bencosme's classes were outraged and surprised at the arrest.

"It's scary," says Rafael Checo, 33, a janitor whose daughter studied with Bencosme. "Now that I know, I would never leave my kid with him again."

But parents say Bencosme was popular with his young students. "All the kids liked him," Checo said. "They would run up to him on the street when they saw him."

Additional reporting by Marcus Baram and Larry Celona

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