A retired vice detective in the NYPD and his wife have pleaded guilty to running a prostitution and gambling ring that also ensnared seven current officers within the department, the Queens district attorney announced Wednesday.
Former detective Ludwig Paz “used his knowledge of inner workings” of the NYPD to operate a string of brothels in Queens, Brooklyn and Hempstead, according to Acting District Attorney John Ryan, and ran illegal gambling rings in beauty salons and other locations throughout the city.
Paz, 51, and his wife Arelis Peralta, 43, both pleaded guilty on Tuesday. Paz faced three charges including promoting prostitution and attempted enterprise corruption, while Peralta only faced two counts of the latter charge.
“The vast majority of police officers are honest, hardworking professionals who have sworn an oath to enforce and uphold the law. Regrettably, there are a few members of service who are willing to tarnish the badge they wear for the chance to make a few easy bucks,” Ryan said.
According to the charges, Paz worked with his wife to head up the illegal enterprises and aided in the day-to-day operations at seven of eight brothels. The duo used information from current Brooklyn South Vice Detective Rene Samaniego — including intel on scheduled raids, where undercover officers were and what they looked like, along with other vital information — to keep the brothels running.
Samaniego pleaded guilty on May 8 for his involvement in the illicit acts, and faces up to six years in prison at his June 25 sentencing.
Paz set up protocols to help weed out undercovers as well. Knowing that police officers could not expose their genitals when interacting with prostitutes, new clients were required to undress and allow themselves to be fondled before getting past security, according to the release.
The prostitution ring alone brought in more than $2 million in just over a year’s time, after using online advertising to attract more customers. After the screening process, clients paid up to $40 for 15 minutes of sex with a prostitute of their choice, or up to $160 for a full hour, according to the full indictment.
Paz and Peralta also profited from illegal lotteries set up at several legitimate businesses, and included managers, runners and agents with offices where bets could be placed on legal lotteries.
Paz is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27 and faces up to 12 years in prison. Peralta was sentenced after pleading guilty, and will serve one year behind bars.
Six other members of the NYPD were named in the initial indictment.
Sgt. Carlos Cruz, 41, and detective Giovanny Rojas Acosta, 40, face enterprise corruption charges after allegedly giving Paz information on law enforcement activities related to prostitution to help him avoid detection, according to the indictment.
Two brothers who are NYPD sergeants — Cliff Nieves, 37, and Steven Nieves, 32 — are accused of promoting prostitution and operating an invite-only "pop-up brothel" within another established brothel, the indictment says. Another cop, Giancarlo Raspanti, allegedly gave Paz confidential police information in exchange for discounted sex at a brothel. And yet another sergeant, Louis Failla, allegedly helped Paz get out of a jam following a brothel ride.
Prosecutors say a tip from an officer about gambling and prostitution issues within the department to the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau in 2015 launched the investigation. Investigators used wiretaps and surveillance, among other techniques, to piece together who was involved in the complicated enterprise and their roles, according to the Queens DA.