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Appeals court orders re-sentencing of LI men convicted of operating sex-slavery ring

Antonio Rivera was sentenced to 60 years in

Antonio Rivera was sentenced to 60 years in prison for being the ringleader of a sex-slavery ring that forced into prostitution through beatings and rape women who had illegally entered the country. Credit: James Carbone, 2009

A federal appeals court in Manhattan on Tuesday ordered the re-sentencing of three Long Island men who had been convicted in 2011 of operating a sex-slavery ring involving women from Central America who worked at bars in Lake Ronkonkoma and Farmingville.

Two of the three judges on the Second Circuit panel agreed that because of errors in calculating their sentencing guideline ranges, the men -- Antonio Rivera of Patchogue; Jason Villaman of Brentwood and John Whaley of Bellport -- had been sentenced to more than the maximum allowed by law.

The majority also held that District Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Central Islip failed to fully state the reason for some of the sentences she imposed.

Rivera was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Villaman was sentenced to 30 years and Whaley was given a 25-year term.

Each had been convicted of numerous counts of sexual trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor and immigration violations.

The dissenting judge called for new trials for the men because of errors during the trial itself. The majority said any errors were harmless.

Rivera, Villaman and Whaley were convicted of using beatings and rape into intimidating the women into prostitution at the bars: Sonidos de la Frontera in Lake Ronkonkoma and La Hija del Mariachi in Farmingville.

In sending the case back to Feuerstein in Central Islip for resentencing, the judges did not say what they thought appropriate sentences should be.

Rivera's attorney, John Carman of Garden City, said Tuesday: "I felt at the time that the sentences were too severe given the type of crimes."

Jonathan Edelstein of Manhattan, Villaman's lawyer, said he would consider a further appeal, asking the entire Second Circuit to order retrials.

An attorney for Whaley could not be reached.

Nellin McIntosh, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in the Eastern District, had no comment.

The Second Circuit judges in the majority were Guido Calabresi and Richard Wiley; the dissenter was Dennis Jacobs.

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