Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini and Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron have announced the indictment of a Selden man on hate crime charges for allegedly luring Hispanic male victims under the pretense of offering them work then assaulting them.
Christopher Cella, 19, is charged with Strangulation in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, a class C violent felony; Assault in the Third Degree as a Hate Crime, a class E felony; two counts of Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, a class E felony; Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, a class E felony; two counts of Criminal Obstruction Of Breathing or Blood Circulation, a class A misdemeanor; and two counts of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor.
“The victims were merely looking for work, but instead were abducted and attacked, all because of their ethnicity,” District Attorney Sini said. “Racism has no place in our communities, and these acts will not be tolerated. It is a top priority for my Office and the Suffolk County Police Department to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute hate crimes, and we will work together to stand against hate.”
“This is clearly a very dangerous individual, targeting people based on their ethnicity in a very prolific manner,” Acting Commissioner Cameron said. “I would like to recognize the great work of our Hate Crimes Unit for rapidly recognizing this pattern and launching an investigation very quickly with assistance from the Sixth Squad detectives and Sixth Precinct officers. I would also like to commend the District Attorney’s Office for getting Mr. Cella remanded and taken off the streets and for their great work on this case.”
At approximately 7:25 a.m. on Sept. 17, Cella drove to the vicinity of La Placita, located at 711 Horseblock Road in Farmingville, and picked up a 52-year-old Hispanic male under the pretense of hiring him for day labor. Cella brought the man to an abandoned construction site on Blue Point Road in Farmingville where he allegedly attempted to kiss the victim and assaulted him, including putting him in a chokehold.
Cella allegedly drove home and switched vehicles, then drove to the vicinity of 7-Eleven, located at 3000 North Ocean Ave. in Farmingville, where he picked up a 60-year-old Hispanic male at approximately 9:15 a.m. Cella allegedly brought him to a side street near the Blue Ridge Condominium Complex, located in Medford, where he assaulted and strangled the man until he lost consciousness then fled.
At approximately 7:10 a.m. on Sept. 18, Cella returned to the 7-Eleven and picked up a 47-year-old Hispanic male. Cella allegedly attempted to bring him to an unknown location; however, the man became suspicious and was able to get out of the vehicle. Cella allegedly attempted to strike the victim with his car.
Cella was arrested on Sept. 19 following an investigation by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit and Sixth Precinct detectives and officers.
Cella was arraigned on the indictment today by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice John Collins and bail was set at $75,000 cash, $500,000 bond, or $500,000 partially-secured bond. He is being represented by Richard Toscani and is due back in court on Nov. 5.
If convicted of the top count, Cella faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Sheetal Shetty, of the Felony Offense Bureau’s Major Crime Unit, who is a member of the District Attorney’s Office’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
District Attorney Sini launched the District Attorney’s Office’s Hate Crimes Task Force in March 2021. The task force consists of eight specially-trained prosecutors who work with the various police departments in Suffolk County to investigate suspected bias-motivated crimes and bring enhanced charges where appropriate.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.