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Oct 20, 2012 11:16 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Summer Renters Say Landlord Spied On Them With Hidden Cameras

Oct 23, 2012 6:00 PM

An extended family of nine, including three children, were secretly videotaped in the nude by their landlord as they rented a house on Winterberry Lane in Springs this summer, a $6.5 million lawsuit filed on October 11 alleges. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s Major Crime Bureau, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Electronic Investigations Unit and the East Hampton Town Police are all involved in a criminal investigation as well, according to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the D.A.’s office.

The lawsuit, which was filed with the United States Eastern District Court in Central Islip, requests anonymity for the plaintiffs to protect the identity of the children, who range in age from 17 months to 7 years old. It states that the family rented a house from Donald Torr, who is the former owner of the Crow’s Nest restaurant in Montauk, from August 26 to September 3.

On August 30, the suit says, cameras hidden in outlet boxes were discovered in two occupied bedrooms, in an air-conditioning vent in another bedroom and in an outdoor shower. The cameras in the bedrooms were pointed directly at the beds, the suit alleges, and the one in the outdoor shower was aimed “in a manner to permit defendant to view a person’s genitalia.”

Suffolk County Police executed a search warrant the next day on August 31, the suit says, and more cameras were found hidden in a television in one bedroom, in a baseboard heater that permitted a view of both that bedroom and an attached bathroom, in a smoke detector in a walk-in closet, and directly above a Jacuzzi.

They were hooked up to a digital video recorder that was connected to the internet so that the landlord could view footage remotely from his computer, according to the lawsuit. It says all the cameras were “active and the video images that they captured were stored on the digital video recorder.”

Mr. Torr, the landlord, lives in Celebration, Florida, where his phone was out of service this week. Phone numbers listed under his name in Montauk are for the Crow’s Nest restaurant, which has new owners and is closed for the season. It is not clear who, if anyone, is representing Mr. Torr in court.

Judd Burstein of New York City, the plaintiffs’ attorney, says in the complaint that Mr. Torr spoke with one of the tenants in a recorded conversation on September 3 and said that the cameras had been installed for security purposes only.

The family of nine—the parents and the 17-month-old, who live in New Jersey; plus the parents of the baby’s father, their daughter, her husband and their two children, 3 and 7, all of New York State—left the house on August 31, before the rental period had ended. Mr. Torr refunded their rental payment, according to the suit.

Detective Lieutenant Chris Anderson of the East Hampton Town Police said he could not comment except to confirm that there is an ongoing investigation. Mr. Clifford said he could not speak about the status of the investigation except to confirm who was involved in it.

The lawsuit alleges “a gross violation of privacy” and seeks compensatory and punitive damages for all nine family members as well as seeking to forbid Mr. Torr “from maintaining or distributing” any of the images in his possession. The renters’ attorney, Mr. Burstein, did not return calls this week.

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your summer vacation on U-Tube ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Oct 20, 12 12:20 PM
watching children is only a misd? anything involving childern should be a felony of great proportions!!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 20, 12 7:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
It's Saturday night...
By Mr. Z (11659), North Sea on Oct 21, 12 12:26 AM
where are all the do gooders usually on the 27 web? are they letting this go by them?
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 20, 12 7:52 PM
Mr. Torr was always known by the locals as a "Peeping Tom".
By colleend (4), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 12 10:29 AM
well, if the owner lives in Florida I can understand the cameras and the angles selected etc. I have never read such horrible accounts of child abuse and or porn as I have recently read in local papers. Indeed Fla. allows child/teen homes and "camps" to operate without state supervision. This is, imo, the most devient place I have ever lived in. The only good thing about it is the weather and I live in Summer. Summer is good.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Oct 30, 12 8:38 PM
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