Mar. 6, 2013 9:19 PM,
Shawn Cohen and Lee Higgins

Silvio Raul Illescas

TARRYTOWN — Drawn by lucrative clients in Westchester County, prostitutes from as far away as California are setting up shop in reputable hotels and arranging liaisons through a classified ads website.

The inherent dangers came to light this week, when police accused an Elmsford construction worker of sexually assaulting women at knifepoint in their rooms at three local hotels.

Silvio Raul Illescas, 40, a father of two children who is estranged from his wife, is alleged to have met all of the women through, which advertises “female escorts.”

“The girls placing the ads are doing a lot more than escorting,” said Capt. Chris McNerny of the Greenburgh police, whose department has been involved in several stings targeting hookers and their clients.

And it’s not just seedy motels they’re using. It’s some of the top spots in Westchester, from the Hilton Rye Town to the Westchester Marriott in Greenburgh, which have a hard time defending against such nefarious activities because the women are paying guests.

“If you invite someone to your room for ‘certain purposes,’ I’m certainly not in the business to do background checks on everybody,” said Richard Friedman, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Tarrytown, where one of the assaults took place.

Illescas, an illegal immigrant who works for RNC Carpentry Concepts, a business he runs with an Ossining girlfriend, is accused of bringing a 6-inch knife to all three attacks. The first occurred Feb. 13 at the Marriott, when he is accused of raping a 29-year-old Washington state woman and holding her for five hours before running off.

Ten days later, he was accused of trying to rape a woman from California in a room at the DoubleTree, slashing her neck, police said. Hotel staff, who heard someone yelling and saw blood on the carpet, called police, but the attacker was gone by the time Tarrytown police arrived, Lt. William Herguth said.

Then on Sunday, it is alleged, Illescas raped a 19-year-old Pennsylvania woman at knifepoint at La Quinta Hotel in Greenburgh. The hotel’s general manager, Joe Oliveri, said he is “devastated” by the news.

Greenburgh police used phone records to track down Illescas and arrested him Monday on the two rapes. Tarrytown police charged him Wednesday with first-degree attempted rape and second-degree assault, both felonies. He was being held in the Westchester County jail without bail.

Police said all the liaisons were arranged with a simple phone call. On, a click on “female escorts” brings up hundreds of localized ads that include risqué pictures of women along with first names and phone numbers.

The attack victims were charging $200 an hour with plans for multiple hook-ups a day. Police said prostitutes flock to Westchester, even fly in from the West Coast, to exploit the market.

“Our intelligence indicates that escorts from all over are attracted to Westchester because they see it as one of the most lucrative places in the country to do business,” McNerny said.

One Backpage escort, who invites people to see her in the White Plains-Tarrytown-Elmsford area, told The Journal News that she was shocked by the rapes, but still courting clients.

“If you do this business, you have to be very, very smart,” said the woman, who lists herself on Backpage as Alexa, a 29-year-old European model. “That’s the problem with some girls. They’re too money hungry and don’t look out for their safety.”

The investigation of Illescas continues. The Greenburgh captain said Illescas is suspected in one other rape and is encouraging any other possible victims to come forward. He hopes to turn up pressure on backpage to stop posting the ads.

“Unfortunately, if enough people are victimized by the use of the website, hopefully there will be some action,” he said, but doesn’t expect this would stop the business.

Attempts to reach Backpage were unsuccessful.