A Blackmail Case with Prostitutes, a Video and Sex Abuse Charges
By ALAN FEUER – SEPT. 19, 2017
Like many private investigators, Vincent Parco has, for nearly 30 years, made his living in the darker corners of New York.
In 1991, he admitted on the witness stand to having sold a pistol and a silencer to a woman who used them in a love-triangle murder that came to be known in the city’s tabloid media as the “Fatal Attraction” case. Decades later, he found himself embroiled in the salacious prosecution of Anna Gristina, the so-called Soccer Mom Madam, whose little black book inspired terror among the rich and famous, both before, and after, she pleaded guilty to running a brothel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
On Tuesday, however, Mr. Parco, 67, made the leap from a simple sleuth and connoisseur of crime to a criminal defendant. In a proceeding that rivalled (and perhaps outdid) his prior exploits in the underworld, he was charged with trying to derail a sexual abuse case in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn by secretly recording a witness having sex with prostitutes he had hired then threatening to expose the man unless he stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
The story began in March 2016 when Samuel Israel, who lives in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was indicted on charges of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. According to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, Mr. Israel, 45, was offered a deal under which he could have pleaded guilty and served five years in prison.
Instead, prosecutors said, four months later, Mr. Israel hired Mr. Parco, the proprietor of the Vincent Parco P.I. Investigative Group (at ISpyforYou.com), and engaged in a blackmail scheme to “surreptitiously record embarrassing video images of a family member of the victim.” After being paid $17,000, prosecutors said, Mr. Parco enlisted an associate, Tanya Freudenthaler, who lured the family member to a hotel room in the Sunset Park neighborhood, where she and Mr. Parco had placed both recording equipment and a prostitute.
According to the district attorney’s office, the initial sting operation was set for Dec. 17, 2016, but the video recorder malfunctioned. So two days later, prosecutors said, Mr. Parco and Ms. Freudenthaler tried again, adding a second woman to the mix and successfully capturing the family member, whose name was not released, having sex on video.
Then, on Jan. 17, two weeks after Mr. Israel had rejected his plea agreement for a second time, the family member was approached by a person whom prosecutors described as “a stranger wearing a scarf.” The stranger showed the family member a cellphone video of his encounter with the women and told him, prosecutors said, “Be smart. Stop making trouble.”
The family member reported this episode to the district attorney’s office, but even that apparently did not stop the effort to derail the sex abuse case. Just two months ago, prosecutors said, another stranger approached another relative of the victim and showed that person the video of the hotel assignation. Finally, a third person reached out to the family member on the video, offering to destroy the video and obtain a statement from Mr. Israel admitting to his crimes so long as the family member did not “report any of this to the authorities,” prosecutors said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Eric Gonzalez, the acting district attorney of Brooklyn, called the extortion scheme “disturbing” and commended the victim and her family “for their courage in resisting” it.
The investigation came to end, Mr. Gonzalez said, in late June when prosecutors executed a search warrant at Mr. Parco’s office in Manhattan, where, they said, they found copies of the video. Mr. Parco was charged on Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn with unlawful surveillance, promoting prostitution and witness tampering. After pleading not guilty at his arraignment, he was released without bail.
“Once the facts are fleshed out,” his lawyer, Peter Gleason, said, “it will show a very different picture of what happened.”
Mr. Israel and Ms. Freudenthaler, 41, face the same charges. Both also pleaded not guilty at the arraignment. Mr. Israel remained in custody on $150,000 bail and Ms. Freudenthaler was released. The defendants are all due back in court on Oct. 20.