Long Island man accused of luring, attacking Hispanic men at abandoned sites

FARMINGVILLE, Suffolk County (WABC) -- A Long Island man was indicted on hate crime charges for allegedly luring and assaulting Hispanic men, and police are searching for additional potential victims.

Christopher Cella, 19, is accused of luring the men to abandoned construction sites in Farmingville with the promise of work, but then attacking them.

The victims, all Hispanic men between the ages of 47 to 60, were able to escape with minor injuries.

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Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini announced the indictment in Riverhead on Tuesday.

Cella is accused of picking up three separate day laborers, and he allegedly told authorities he "hated illegal Spanish people."

"He told law enforcement, quote, he wanted to 'do this to Spanish guys,'" Suffolk County District Attorny Tim Sini said.

In court, prosecutors said he tried to forcibly kiss his first victim, a 52-year-old man from Holbrook, then assaulted him in a chokehold on September 17.

Authorities say the then went home, switched cars, and allegedly picked up his second victim, a 60-year old man from Medford.

Cella allegedly strangled that man until he was unconscious.

The third victim, a 47-year-old man from Brentwood, was picked up on September 18, and prosecutors say he only escaped after throwing Cella's speeding car into park. Cella then allegedly tried to run him over.

"Mr. Cella is clearly a very dangerous individual, targeting people because of their ethnicity, in a very prolific manner," Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said.

Cella is charged with second-degree strangulation as a hate crime, third-degree assault as a hate crime, unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, reckless endangerment as a hate crime, criminal obstruction of breathing, and second-degree aggravated harassment.

He is being held on $75,000 cash/$500,000 bond, and if convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

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His parents and defense attorney Richard Toscani said he suffers from substance abuse and addiction, but also mental illness.

The judge ordered psychiatric evaluation as well.

Advocates for day laborers say this is part of the culture of danger they often face, just to work.

"They're taking a risk, and sometimes they face wage theft," said Nadia Marin-Molina, with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network. "Or they face extremely dangerous working conditions."

And it's happening in a community with a history of racial violence dating back decades.

"In Farmingville, in particular, is the worry that history is repeating itself," Marin-Molina said.

The investigation is continuing, and anyone who believes they may be a victim of Cella is asked to contact Hate Crimes Unit detectives at 631-852-6553.

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