NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three men have been charged with breaking into a New York City home, changing the locks and demanding that the rightful owners turn over the deed, in a case that a prosecutor on Friday called "truly bizarre."
The case goes back to late April when a woman returned to her home in the city's Queens borough and discovered that the locks had been changed and three men were inside. The trio claimed to be working with the bank that held the mortgage on the property and demanded that she sign papers, including a deed transfer, according to county District Attorney Richard Brown.
"In a truly bizarre case, the defendants are accused of breaking into a Queens residence and locking the true owners out, then forcing them to negotiate with the defendants if they wanted to gain access to their own home," Brown said.
The woman told the men that her husband, the sole owner of the home, was in China at the time. They exchanged emails with him but he refused to sign the papers, prosecutors said.
The homeowner returned in May with a locksmith, entered and discovered the home ransacked, with jewelry, cash and other possessions missing.
Brandon Sestoso, 33, and his brother, Chas Sestoso, 31, both of Hicksville, New York, and Jesse Kusinow, 32, of Howell, New Jersey, have been charged with burglary, criminal mischief, unlawful eviction and criminal trespass. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Their attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
The homeowners' identities were not disclosed.
(Reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)