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NYPD cops involved in prostitution ring had sex while onduty with hookers, investigator says

September 15, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
NYPD cops involved in prostitution ring had sex while onduty with hookers, investigator says

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An ex-New York City Police vice investigator who used NYPD officers to secure his $2 million-a-year prostitution conspiracy forced all prospective clients to drop their pants and got groped — to confirm they weren’t undercover officers.

Ludwig Paz, 51, was aware from his years on the job that officers can’t expose themselves to prostitutes during busts, so any new customers who wanted to utilize his services were forced to undress and “allow themselves to be fondled,” according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The director of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau also indicated that some of Paz’s purported police accomplices took advantage of the prostitutes’ services while on duty as compensation for funneling information to him about “active and ongoing” probes. “They patronized prostitutes on and off duty,” IAB Chief Joseph Reznick states.

During the arraignments of the seven officers charged in the case, Queens prosecutors indicated that clients at Paz’s brothels were charged $40 for 15 minutes of intercourse, $80 for a half-hour, and $160 for a full hour, with half of the profit going to the hookers. However, two of the men who are accused of plotting with Paz — Sergeant Carlos Cruz, 41, and Officer Giancarlo Raspanti, 43 — were paid in cut-rate sexual favors.

Cruz was seen going to Paz’s brothels on countless occasions but would only need to “give the girl a 20,” according to Bradley Chain, the Queens Assistant District Attorney. In exchange, the married father of two gave Paz information he received on his own and also from other law enforcement officials.

Raspanti — a 23-year veteran and divorced father who resides in his childhood Brooklyn residence — reportedly searched NYPD databases to prevent Paz from getting busted. He also gave just $20 to each of the women that serviced him, according to ADA Christine Oliveri.

Paz paid 43-year-old Brooklyn South Vice Detective Rene Samaniego up to $500 a week to be his “primary informant,” with Samaniego tipping Paz to upcoming busts and sting operations, The New York Post reported.

Samaniego’s knowledge included information on “what officers were coming, what they were wearing, where they were coming from” — and was sometimes gave these details while he was parked outside a brothel as part of an NYPD probe, Chain revealed.

Samaniego also “leapt to action” when he found out that one of Paz’s hookers was the target of a trafficking investigation, contacting her pimps and coaching them on what to say to keep Brooklyn prosecutors from charging them.

“This conduct is egregious. It is far beyond any of the officers who were charged,” Chain added.

Other officers that were charged in the case include 40-year-old Detective Giovanni Rojas-Acosta and 49-year-old Sergeant Louis Failla, who police sources said was Paz’s former supervisor in the Vice Enforcement Division.

In 2009, Failla awarded Paz a 5.0 — the highest score attainable — on his yearly NYPD performance analysis, with one source stating: “No one gets a 5, even inside people.”

Sergeant Cliff Nieves, 37, and his brother, 32-year-old Officer Steven Nieves, are accused of operating what prosecutors described as a “pop-up brothel,” with Steven Nieves caught on footage accepting cash from men when they entered.

That operation — which reportedlu used one of Paz’s locations and his prostitutes — was “to host a bachelor party,” DA Brown stated.

Authorities said Paz and his wife, Arelis Peralta, 43, managed brothels in Queens, Brooklyn and Hempstead, Long Island, and also operated illegal lottery enterprises out of beauty salons, a deli, and other undisclosed businesses.

The brothels alone generated over $2 million between August 2016 and September 2017.

The rackets were purportedly a family affair, with Peralta’s daughters, Arisbel Guzman, 20, and Jarelis Guzman, 22, apprehended along with their mother and step-father, with whom they resided in Queens Village.

Arisbel is accused of doing “whatever way her family needed,” at times serving as “an attendant collecting money from patrons,” while Jarelis worked “as a runner to pick up gambling proceeds,” ADA Chain noted.

IAB Chief Reznick indicated that Paz, who retired in 2010, apparently “familiarized himself with gambling and prostitution, and he took favor to that type of business” after being employed as a vice detective.

The probe targeting Paz, his NYPD accomplices, and almost three dozen civilian co-defendants — called “Operation Zap” — took over three years due to its sensitive nature.

“Unlike many other investigations, internal investigations require the highest level of confidentiality and discreet methods of obtaining records and things needed during our investigation,” Reznick said during a press conference at NYPD headquarters in Manhattan.

“Any leaks could have [had] detrimental effects.”

Detectives monitored over 50 wiretaps, executed more than 100 surveillance operations and had “just as many undercover operations,” he added.

Reznick said the investigation was launched in 2015, after receiving a tip from an officer who believed “that someone involved in illegal activities was having conversations with someone in the Vice Enforcement Division.”

“That someone turned out to be a retired detective: Ludwig Paz,” Reznick continued.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill stated that the officers caught in the scheme “tarnished the NYPD shields they wore” and “diminished the work of tens of thousands of honest, honorable, and ethical cops.”

All of the officers and Peralta’s daughters were freed without bail after entering not guilty pleas in Queens Supreme Court.

Paz remained in custody in lieu of $525,000 bond or $325,000 bail; and Peralta was held on $400,000 bond or $150,000 bail.

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