Authorities said three men, two of them brothers from Long Island, broke into a home in Queens, changed the locks -- and demanded the homeowners sign over the deed.
Now the trio are under arrest, facing lengthy prison sentences if convicted of the "bizarre" scheme.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the defendants, identified as Brandon Sestoso, 33, and his brother, Chas Sestoso, both of McAlester Avenue in Hicksville, and Jesse Kusinow, 32, of Howell, New Jersey, face up to 15 years in prison.DataLI crime stats
Chas Sestoso was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on May 26 and Kusinow on June 10. Brandon Sestoso faces arraignment at a later date.
In a statement released Friday, Brown called it "a truly bizarre case," adding "the defendants are accused of breaking into a Queens residence and locking the true owners out, then forcing them to negotiate with the defendants if they wanted to gain access to their own home."
Authorities said the homeowner's wife left the Grand Central Parkway residence on the morning of April 29, when the homeowner was in China. When the wife returned that evening, she found the locks changed -- and the three defendants inside the home.
Brown said the defendants told the woman they worked for the bank that held the mortgage on the property, telling her "that she could not gain access to the property unless she signed documents pertaining to the house."
The trio then allegedly emailed documents to the homeowner in China, including a deed transfer. The owner signed and emailed "several" documents back to the defendants, Brown said, but did not sign or send the deed transfer.
The defendants then emailed the owner, demanding the transfer be signed, Brown said.
The next day, Brown said the trio gave the woman "10 minutes" to retrieve belongings from the home, at which time she discovered the house had been ransacked. The woman's husband finally returned to the house with a locksmith on May 16 -- removing and changing all the locks.
Inside, Brown said, the homeowner found property missing, including jewelry, knives, cash and the deed documents.
Kusinow and the Sestosos are charged with second-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, unlawful eviction and second-degree criminal trespass. Additionally, Kusinow is charged with third-degree grand larceny. All three men face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, Brown said.
Chas Sestoso was released on $10,000 bail and is due in court on Sept. 15. Kusinow is still being held on $75,000 bail, due in court Tuesday.
It was not clear if the homeowners were known to the suspects or if they were targeted.