A former NYPD vice detective was sentenced after admitting to his role in participating in a prolific prostitution ring and gambling enterprise throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Detective Rene Samaniego, 44, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted enterprise corruption in May. He was sentenced to to two to six years in prison on July 24.
“This defendant took an oath to protect and serve when he joined the NYPD,” said acting District Attorney John M. Ryan. “Instead, sadly, he chose greed over honor. He tarnished the badge he wore to line his pockets with cash. The defendant pleaded guilty for his role in pushing both prostitution and illegal gambling in our fine borough. For this, he will go to prison.”
Charges say that in April 2015, the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau received an anonymous tip that some active duty and retired police officers were taking part in a complex illegal operation. Investigators were able to identify the key players in the operation through court-authorized wiretaps, surveillance and other investigative tools.
Samaniego worked closely with the boss, Ludwig “Agua” Paz, by providing intel on police procedures, scheduled raids and other vital information that kept the brothels open and in business. Samaniego also provided detailed descriptions of undercover cops, which ultimately compromised their safety.
With Samaniego’s intel, the brothel operators were able to weed out undercover detectives with new protocols in place for new clients. Knowing that police officers could not expose their genitals when interacting with prostitutes, new clients would be required to undress and allow themselves to be fondled before getting past security.
Out of the eight brothels, two were located in Queens — one on Liberty Avenue in Jamaica and the other on Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood. The others were located in Brooklyn and Hempstead, Long Island. Charges say that the prostitution ring allegedly netted more than $2 million in 13 months using online ads to attract customers. After getting through the screening process, clients were given their choice of prostitutes and paid up to $40 for 15 minutes of sex play or up to $160 for a full hour.
Charges also say that various illegal lotteries set up in multiple businesses, including a deli on Springfield Boulevard and a hair salon on 243rd Street in Queens, were run by the bosses as a part of the operation.
“This officer diminished the work of tens of thousands of other honest and ethical cops,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “We depend on the trust we build with the people who live and work in our neighborhoods. Whenever an officer betrays that trust by engaging in criminal behavior, it tarnishes the shields they wear. This police department will never tolerate this, and neither will the people we serve.”