The downturn in the housing market appears to have driven two New York homeowners to desperate, illegal measures when their house went unsold.
Police say the Westchester County couple, both mortgage brokers, turned their home into a brothel.
Robert Werner, 34, and Heather Mazzenga, 32, were arrested at the three-bedroom home Friday night and were charged with promoting prostitution. Four women, ranging in age from 21 to 30, are charged with misdemeanor counts of prostitution and practicing massage without a license.
All six are free on bail.
New Rochelle Police Lieutenant George Rosenbergen would not say how police learned of the alleged operation.
The house, they say, had been turned into a brothel complete with a red ribbon placed out by the sidewalk to indicate they were open for business.
Werner and Mazzenga moved out of the house roughly two years ago so they could begin renovating a home on Mountain Road in Pleasantville.
New Rochelle neighbors told CBS Station WCBS the house had originally been listed for $750,000 but didn’t sell even after the price had been dropped to $600,000. The house was rented to families who came and left, and then fell into neglect until new neighbors arrived about two weeks ago.
The lawn was mowed. Heavy windowshades were put up.
A neighbor, David Saperstein, told WCBS correspondent Lou Young that he never saw the new neighbors. “But at night there’s five, six, seven cars there,” he said.
Natalie Nanzo told Young she’d even considered buying the house when it was first put on the market. She couldn’t get over talk that the North Avenue home was allegedly a house of ill-repute.
“I’m in shock,” Nanzo said, “because these people were business people. I can’t believe they would be involved in prostitution.”
The alleged brothel sits across the street from a museum dedicated to Thomas Paine, the author of 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense,” that helped rouse the nation to war.
It’s the second alleged sex-for-sale bust in a premiere Westchester neighborhood this year. In February, Bedford police accused dominatrix Sandra Chemero of running a prostitution business out of her home – which she rented from a local yeshiva.