Families paying $7,000 a week for a summer rental in East Hampton were secretly videotaped on cameras set up by the home's owner throughout the house, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The landlord, Donald Torr, 69, appeared in Suffolk Criminal Court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of unlawful surveillance and endangering the welfare of children.
Torr was arrested last month at his primary home in Florida. His wife and two children watched the court proceedings but offered no comment.
"This defendant secretly videotaped 13 adults, as well as nine children, without their permission and without their knowledge," said Suffolk County prosecutor John Cortes.
According to Cortes, at least seven cameras were hidden in bedrooms and even a shower, capturing much of the activities involving the adults and children renting the home during two separate weeks last August.
Hundreds of hours of video were recorded and have been recovered, prosecutors said. In addition, a router and modem in the home's basement allowed Torr to view the cameras on the internet.
"He was taking their money and invading their privacy at the same time," Cortes said. The prosecutor refused comment when asked about Torr's potential motive.
Torr's lawyer, Bruce Barket, insisted his client had done nothing wrong.
"It was not at all about spying on people," Barket claimed. The cameras, he said, were placed to ensure that the home was not vandalized when it was vacant. When tenants were inside the home, Barket said, the cameras were turned off.
"Torr was not watching individuals while they were in the house," Barket added.
One of the adults renting the home discovered the hidden cameras, prompting a police investigation, prosecutors said. Others may have been victimized, said Cortes, who asked those potential victims to come forward.
One of the families allegedly victimized last August has filed a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against Torr in federal court. The family has not been named and their lawyer refused comment Wednesday.
A Suffolk judge ordered Torr held on $100,000 bail. According to Barket, his client would make bail by week's end.