Riverhead man sentenced to 23 years for child sex abuse

A Riverhead man has been sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sexual assault in a horrific case in which he admits to having abused a 10-year-old girl for months, authorities said Thursday.  

As part of his sentence, Jose Carabantes Pineda, 37, will also be subject to 20 years of post-release supervision, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney, who announced the sentence in a press release.

Citing the investigation and Mr. Carabantes Pineda’s Feb. 2023 guilty plea, authorities described a harrowing cycle of abuse that ended after the child cried for help in a Riverhead parking lot and a passerby took notice.  

An attorney representing Mr. Carabantes Pineda did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sentencing.

On March 20, 2021, Mr. Carabantes Pineda drove the female victim, 10, to the parking lot in front of Big Lots on Route 58 in Riverhead, bound her with duct tape and sexually assaulted her in the back of his minivan.

Police said the victim screamed as she tried to fight her assailant off and banged on the windows, drawing the attention of an unidentified Good Samaritan, who “knocked on the heavily tinted and fogged windows.”

As Mr. Carabantes Pineda fled in the minivan, the Good Samaritan attempted to follow behind while calling 911 to report details about the vehicle.   

 Mr. Carabantes Pineda took the victim to his home, placed her in a different car, and “drove around with the victim so he could coach her into telling police that she was screaming because they had just sideswiped a car should she be questioned,” Mr. Tierney said in the press release.

When Mr. Carabantes Pineda returned to the home a few minutes later, he was arrested by Riverhead police, who took the victim to Peconic Bay Medical Center to undergo a sexual assault forensic examination — which located Mr. Carabantes Pineda’s DNA on the child’s body.  

Mr. Carabantes Pineda “had been sexually abusing the child for months leading up to the incident,” Mr. Tierney said in the statement.

“The bravery of this young victim to fight back against her abuser, the quick reaction of a Good Samaritan and the swift response by the Riverhead Police Department are the reason this predator was apprehended,” he said.

“The fact that there are individuals who prey on innocent children like this, is just incomprehensible. But make no mistake, once we catch them, like this defendant, we will do everything in our power to ensure they serve a lengthy prison sentence.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Tara Laterza and Macdonald Drane of the Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Bureau.