By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
A suspected madam was shot to death in Little Neck last week after she was bound and gagged in what police and neighbors believe to be a brothel on a hidden street off Northern Boulevard.
Emilia Alvarado, 50, died of a single gunshot wound to the head, said a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.
The murder of the quiet Honduran native shocked some people who had worked for years within feet of Alvarado’s reputed prostitution house in the upscale neighborhood. But several employees of nearby businesses said they had seen men frequenting the house.
The homicide was the first in the 111th Precinct since July 2001, when a man was found behind the Seville Diner in Douglaston with a slashed throat.
Officer Santo Elardo of the 111th Precinct said he had been told Alvarado was a madam from a house of prostitution at 44-06 Jessie Court, where her body was found around 11:30 a.m. April 16.
The officer said Alvarado was discovered bound and gagged in an upstairs bedroom, kneeling face down between the bed and a nightstand.
No arrests had been made and no motive was known as of late Tuesday.
Elardo said police had investigated the Little Neck house years ago, but he did not know if any arrests had been made by the vice squad for prostitution.
He said a 50-year-old white man who did not know Alvarado had called police to report the murder, but he was not considered a suspect.
In addition to Alvarado, police found 34 dogs in the basement that were removed by Animal Control, said Lt. Raymond Spinella of the 111th.
Finance Department records show that Alvarado had owned the house since 1996. Elardo said it was not known whether she lived there, but the house was for sale.
Jose Alvarez, who works behind the counter at the Polo Delicatessen across Northern Boulevard from Jessie Court, said he knew Alvarado was a madam with a varying number of women working for her at any given time.
Alvarado, a native of Honduras, was “a very quiet person,” according to the deli worker, who used to live in an apartment building two doors down from the reputed brothel.
She was a good customer who would buy food for her dogs and candles at his store, he said.
“It was real sad,” Alvarez said of her murder.
Alvarado’s nondescript two-story house, tucked away on a street with no sign, was known among neighboring business owners as a house of ill repute.
“We used to see men going back there every half hour,” said Charles Manna, an agent at Little Neck Realty, whose workplace borders on Jessie Court. “We thought they had it cleaned up.”
About the murder, Manna said: “It was really strange. It totally shocked us.”
Employees at the Queens County Savings Bank at 251-31 Northern Blvd. said men frequenting the brothel, some driving expensive cars, would park in the bank’s lot.
“It’s been going on for a long time,” said a bank worker who declined to be named.
The bank employees said they had never called police or run into problems with the business, located at the end of a tiny street facing the back of the bank.
The two other houses on Jessie Court are an apartment building and a chiropractor’s office. The chiropractor could not be reached for comment.
Community members reacted differently to news that a brothel was operating under their noses.
“I wouldn’t say they’re common,” said Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece. “I don’t think it’s common knowledge.”
A Little Neck resident of 50 years who declined to give her name said “there used to be a big problem” of prostitution in Little Neck, but the situation had improved over the last decade.
“There used to be an awful lot of whore houses above the stores” on Northern Boulevard, she said.
A peep show business had been targeted by local activists some years back and was forced to change its signage, the woman said.
A man who would only identify himself as a realtor who had worked in Little Neck for 18 years said the street was rife with fronts for prostitution that would close, move and reopen in response to police raids.
“They keep jumping around,” he said. “It’s bad for this neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.