Authorities are still searching for five men who forced their way into a house in Riverside being utilized as a brothel on Saturday evening, threatening the occupants with both guns and machetes, before tying them up and stealing more than $3,500 in cash.
Two of the house’s 12 occupants—Southampton Town Police did not clarify if they were prostitutes or customers—were transported to the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead for treatment of knife wounds suffered during the robbery before being released on Sunday morning.
Police said the five men—described only as Hispanic by authorities—stormed into the house at 131 Old Quogue Road at around 6:20 p.m. The armed men then tied up the dozen occupants before making off on foot with $3,500 in cash along with assorted wallets, credit cards and cellphones. Police did not say how many of the victims were Johns and prostitutes.
Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said the men were inside the home for between 15 and 25 minutes before fleeing on foot with their cash, loot and weapons, according to witness statements.
“There were a few undisclosed victims that fled the scene after the burglars,” she added, noting that there were 12 people who were bound during the invasion.
It is not clear how the people fled or who contacted the police. Sgt. Costa did not immediately return emails seeking further clarification.
During their investigation, police determined that Cristian Perez-Garcia, one of the occupants, was running a prostitution business out of the home.
Mr. Perez-Garcia, 29, of Riverside was charged with third-degree promoting prostitution, a felony. He was held overnight at police headquarters in Hampton Bays and arraigned Sunday morning in Southampton Town Justice Court. He was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside where he was still being held in lieu of $10,000 bail as of earlier this week.
Sgt. Costa noted that Mr. Perez-Garcia has multiple aliases, though she declined to comment on whether or not he has a criminal record. A representative of the Suffolk County district attorney’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Both Luz Espinal, 34, of Brooklyn, and Yasmin Paniagua, 40, of the Bronx, were also arrested and charged with prostitution, a misdemeanor. Both women were found in the home and transported to police headquarters for processing.
Both Ms. Espinal and Ms. Paniagua were arraigned Sunday morning and released on appearance tickets.
According to town records, Gary Nesbitt of Westhampton Beach is the listed owner of the house in Riverside that was being utilized as a brothel.
Mr. Nesbitt could not be reached for comment this week.
Authorities said they do not know how long Mr. Perez-Garcia had been renting the house from Mr. Nesbitt.
When reached earlier this week, Southampton Town Code Enforcement Officer Christopher Fraser confirmed that the house has been investigated by his office in the past but, due to the open criminal investigation, he said he could not share specific details. He did note that he thinks Mr. Nesbitt was notified about those investigations.
Several neighbors of the Riverside house, meanwhile, said Monday that they had no idea that the home was being utilized as a brothel.
One woman, who did not want to give her name, said she has observed taxis dropping off women near the home on multiple occasions, but did not think anything of it until after Saturday’s incident.
“It’s scary to know that. It was a stun to us,” she said on Monday afternoon. “Taxi drivers used to drop people off in front of my house, and I had to tell them that no one was coming here and not to park in front of my house.”
In spite of Saturday’s event, the woman said she still feels safe in her home.
“The neighborhood used to be bad, but the neighborhood is beautiful now,” she said. “I feel safe.”
Town Police detectives, who were assisted by New York State and Southampton Village police, are still investigating the incident.