A 27-year-old Montauk man was arrested by East Hampton Town police Monday after confessing to a detective that he had had sexual intercourse on multiple occasions with a 14-year-old Montauk girl. The relationship started in 2013, when the girl was 13, Juan Jose Zhingri-Deleg had told Detective Tina Giles, according to a statement on file at East Hampton Town Court.
Mr. Zhingri-Deleg, who was born in Ecuador, as was the victim, is now facing one charge of rape in the second degree, as well as a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, but could face several more counts after the Suffolk County district attorney presents the case to a grand jury, which is likely to happen in the next couple of days.
Mr. Zhingri-Deleg told Detective Giles in Spanish that he had befriended the girl’s family early last year. The girl’s mother, he said, was not troubled by the friendship, which started when the girl, whose identity has been removed from all documents available to the public by both the police and the court, began teaching Mr. Zhingri-Deleg how to play guitar. Although both the mother and a grandfather encouraged the relationship, the mother had warned the two “that it was good that we were friends and can play with each other, but not to make a mistake,” Mr. Zhingri-Deleg told Detective Giles.
The defendant speaks no English. The detective has, in interviews over the past year, declined to identify herself as fluent in Spanish but is at ease when speaking the language.
Mr. Zhingri-Deleg described his first kiss with the alleged victim as “quick” and said that the two would communicate through Facebook.
The first time the two had sex was in November 2013, he told Detective Giles, giving a graphic description of the act, which occurred in a room he had rented near the apartment the girl lived in in Montauk.
He described several more sexual encounters between the two, with the most recent being Saturday evening, while the girl’s mother was at church. “We had told them that we did not want to go to church, and they trusted us to be good and do nothing wrong,” he told the detective, according to the statement.
In the statement, Mr. Zhingri-Deleg says that the two exchanged Christmas gifts. “I gave her a pink bear and she gave me a white dog, which I have in my room now,” the statement, which is part of the public court record, reads.
It was after the last encounter that the mother got in touch with police. She also called Mr. Zhingri-Deleg. “I called her back, and she told me that I had to call a detective named Tina, and she gave me her phone number. She told me the detective wanted to talk with me about her daughter. I told her okay, I would call.”
Detective Tina Giles, who is on the verge of retiring from the East Hampton Town police after 28 years on the force, was named officer of the year on the East End of Long Island by the Kiwanis Club last year for her work in the investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of Fidel Castro-Brito.
There are eerie similarities between Mr. Castro-Brito’s case and Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s. Mr. Castro-Brito was arrested in 2012 and indicted on 76 charges stemming from his relationship with four young girls. Mr. Castro-Brito befriended the girls, keeping in contact through Facebook, as well as texting, as Mr. Zhingri-Deleg is accused of doing. He was known and trusted by the victims’ families.
Mr. Castro-Brito was sentenced by Suffolk County Justice Barbara R. Kahn to multiple terms of 20 years to life and is now incarcerated in state prison.
If indicted, Mr. Zhingri-Deleg will likely be tried in Justice Kahn’s courtroom in Riverside. She presides over most of the sex cases brought to trial on the East End.
At the end of Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s statement, he said he was speaking to the detective because he wanted to tell the truth. “I am in love with her,” Mr. Zhingri-Deleg is quoted as saying about the victim. “I do not want to lose her. I recognize that she is only 14 years old, but we get along very well together. We have talked about her continuing her studies at school to have a better life for us.”
When he was taken to court late Tuesday morning, he appeared distraught. He stood in front of East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky, who slowly read the charges to Mr. Zhingri-Deleg in English, at the defendant’s request. Tamara Palmer, a court clerk, translated.
There were spatters of paint on Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s pants. He told the court that he worked as a mason, doing tile work, but that work was slow during the winter months.
Justice Tekulsky read to Mr. Zhingri-Deleg an order of protection he was issuing for the alleged victim, who was standing in the hallway of the courthouse with her mother during the arraignment. When the justice came to a section of the document ordering the defendant to refrain from strangulation, a standard part of such documents, Mr. Zhingri-Deleg said to Ms. Palmer, “I would never do that.”
“He just needs to listen to me,” Justice Tekulsky instructed, telling the defendant that the county district attorney’s office had requested that bail be set at $100,000, a level the justice agreed with.
Mr. Zhingri-Deleg asked what would happen if he didn’t post bail and was told by Ms. Palmer that he would be taken to the county jail in Riverside. A town police officer attending Mr. Zhingri-Deleg told him he could post bail there.
The defendant spoke to Ms. Palmer as he was being led away. “He is saying there is no way he can do that,” she said.
“I’ve been surprised before,” the police officer said.
As Mr. Zhingri-Deleg was led out the backdoor of the courthouse to a waiting squad car, he passed the alleged victim, who began sobbing uncontrollably. Her mother, holding the order of protection in her hands, led her out the front door of the courthouse.