As in summer's past, Lucy Sachs made plans to lease her 101-year-old, 18-bedroom East Hampton, N.Y., home, which her great-grandfather built, for the month of June.
This year's leasee, Lee Hnetinka, told her "he was going to have family there, family reunions, family coming and going," Sachs said. "I said, 'Terrific.' We have a big family, and that's the way we like it to be used."
So imagine her dismay when she made a surprise visit, prompted by a neighbor's urgent call, and discovered almost 100 teens packed inside. They informed her that Hnetinka told them it was his property, she said, and that he had charged $350 per person for a three-day weekend after-prom party.
"I learned that he made almost $34,000 from that one weekend," Sachs said, adding that she'd charged him $30,000 for an entire month's lease, which started May 29.
Although police are investigating, Sachs has opted not to pursue legal action against Hnetinka, 25, of Jericho, N.Y., who could not be reached for comment. He has no attorney of record, according to the justice court clerk in neighboring Southampton Town, where Hnetinka is due in court Friday for arraignment on an unrelated legal matter.
Hnetinka is not the first person to attract the attention of code enforcement officials in the Hamptons who warn unsuspecting homeowners to be on the lookout for renters who withhold their true intentions.
"It's not a new scenario," David Betts, head of code enforcement in Southampton Town, said of Sachs' experience. "We're hopeful that we'll be able to stop this kind of activity."
The Sachs home, with its hot tub, pool and tennis court, escaped essentially damage free, but the bad taste lingers.
Sachs said she met Hnetinka at the property at the start of the lease to show him the home. She returned the next day and approached two teenagers on the premises, she said, and asked for Hnetinka.
The two teens looked at her blankly. "There was no reason to be suspicious at that point, but there were two kids and a garbage bag full of beer," she said.
When she periodically checked on the house, Sachs noticed a substantial amount of garbage piling up outside. So, she said, she scheduled an extra garbage pickup, thinking Hnetinka just needed some help managing.
"Then on Friday [June 8], I got called at 5 a.m. by the neighbor saying, 'I've been up since 2 a.m., a party bus arrived with a disco ball, and it's got to stop. I've called the police.'" Sachs said.
Sachs called Hnetinka to ask him what was going on. He told her his aunt was having a graduation party, she said.
She decided to make the 1-mile drive from where she lived over to the house to investigate for herself. When she arrived, she was met at her door by security guards, and the nearly 100 people inside.
Turns out Hnetinka had been renting her home out for graduation and after-prom parties on the weekends once the lease began, she said. "He's a very smooth talker," she added.
Zach Breit, 18, of New Hyde Park, N.Y, who had paid to stay at Sachs' home the weekend of June 8, said he and his friends arrived at the property after his senior prom in four party buses.
"[Hnetinka] made us put all our luggage on the kitchen table, and he told us he was going to search it for guns and alcohol," Breit said. "Then, we went into the living room and he talked to us about the basic rules."
Breit said Hnetinka gave security guards a manual to read to the teen tenants after they arrived to the house. He said Hnetinka left them alone in the house with the guards at around 4:30 a.m.