BIDDEFORD, Maine — A 35-year-old local man who worked at a fitness center is facing multiple sex charges as the result of an investigation by Biddeford police into a co-worker’s report that she found a hidden video recording device near a tanning booth at the facility.
Joseph A. Flister, a former Portland resident, was arrested Feb. 12 on the following charges: five counts of Class A felony gross sexual assault; one count of unlawful sexual touching, a Class D crime; 40 counts of exploitation of a minor, a Class B felony; and 41 counts of violation of privacy, a Class D crime, Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk of the Biddeford Police Department said Wednesday in a news release.
Fisk said the gross sexual assault charges involve a 14-year-old girl who was living in the same household as Flister on Emery Street in Biddeford in 2012. The victim now resides out of state with family.
Biddeford police became involved in the case on Jan. 23, when a call was received from an employee of a local fitness center reporting that she believed to have found a video recording device in one of the private rooms that houses the tanning booths, Fisk said.
A Biddeford police officer was sent to the business and was taken to the room, where he saw what appeared to be a key fob-type object dangling from the wall near the ceiling, Fisk said.
The employee said she usually uses the tanning booth after the close of business, Fisk said. On Jan. 22, the woman mentioned to Flister that she would be tanning after work.
“[As] she was suspicious of him, she checked the room prior to telling him, and there was nothing hanging from the wall. After the close of business, when she went into the room to tan, she looked up and noticed the suspicious key fob was hanging from the wall,” Fisk said. “She immediately left the room, meeting up with Flister telling him that she was too tired to tan but that she would the next evening.”
The next evening, the woman again told Flister that she would be tanning at the close of business, Fisk said. After closing time, the woman checked the same room, and there was no strange key fob-type device hanging from the wall.
“She told Flister she would be tanning, and he held her up telling her he would go clean the room for her,” Fisk said. “He was gone a short time and returned telling her she was all set. As she entered the room, she observed the same suspicious device hanging from the wall and immediately called the police.”
Fisk said the investigating officer removed the device from the wall and took it into evidence for further investigation by detectives. Flister was fired that night.
On Jan. 24, detectives determined that the suspicious item was in fact a miniature recorder. Recordings on the device incriminated Flister, according to police.
“They observed Flister in the tanning room activating the recording device and pointing it towards the tanning bed,” Fisk said. “Flister clearly did not realize that the camera was capturing his image off of a mirror in the room.”
Biddeford detectives obtained a search warrant that day for Flister’s home at 27 Emery St., where computers and recording devices were seized from the residence. It was on a computer that detectives found the evidence that led to the charges, including those involving the juvenile, Fisk said.
Fisk said there is no evidence that Flister was video recording anyone other than the one employee who called the police.
“It appeared, according to statements, that he had a ‘crush’ on her,” Fisk said.