Detective, lawyer spar in 'Flush the Johns' case

Nassau police and prosecutors announced in June the

Nassau police and prosecutors announced in June the arrests of more than 100 men -- including two doctors and two dentists -- on charges that in recent years have gone largely unprosecuted in the county: soliciting prostitutes. (Credit: Nassau DA)

A veteran vice detective sparred with a defense attorney Monday on whether a Mineola man solicited sex when he went to a local motel last year in response to an Internet ad for adult escorts.

"He knew the amount. He knew the time limit and he knew what the money was exchanged for," Det. David Twomey of the Narcotics / Vice Squad of the Nassau County Police Department said.

Twomey said the arrest of Nicholas Sisti, 51, and 103 other men last spring was the first time his unit had targeted the "johns" who solicit sex from prostitutes, but he could not say who made the decision to change tactics.


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He said police felt something different had to be done because some hotels in Nassau County had complained about prostitution, and "it really brings down the quality of the hotels."

Attorney Mark Panzavecchia of Garden City got Twomey to acknowledge that Sisti did not specifically ask for sex during the videotaped meeting with a female undercover vice officer, and did not mention sex when he made a telephone call to the officer in response to an ad on Backpage.com.

Asked why detectives did not record the original telephone solicitation, Twomey said it has been a long-standing practice not to do so.

Twomey said he could not use explicit sexual language in placing the ads because the Backpage.com filter rejects anyone who attempts to post sexually explicit words or images.

The detective said Sisti had responded to an ad for an escort at a "special" price of $80, plus $20 for a massage.

Prosecutor Robert Castillo told the judge earlier: "This defendant thought he struck the deal of the century -- sex and a massage for a hundred bucks."

Twomey, a 28-year-veteran, testified at a nonjury trial before Judge Rhonda Fischer in First District Court in Hempstead, where Sisti is charged with patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

Before the trial started, the judge asked Sisti if he understood that he faced up to a year in jail and 3 years' probation if convicted. Sisti, a chemist who also has a law degree, but is not licensed to practice in New York, said he did.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice had dubbed the sting, "Flush the Johns" in announcing the arrests in June.

Her office said 10 of the men pleaded guilty, one was acquitted in a nonjury trial, one was dismissed with the agreement of prosecutors and there have been five other dismissals that prosecutors are seeking to reargue.

CORRECTION: The quote about the “deal of the century” was incorrectly attributed in an earlier version of this story.

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