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Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP
NYPD police officers were indicted for allegedly operating a prostitution and gambling ring in Queens, Brooklyn, and Hempstead, Long Island, according to the Queens DA’s office.
By Carlotta Mohamed

A retired NYPD vice detective and seven active NYPD officers were indicted last week for allegedly operating a prostitution ring and gambling enterprise involving nearly three dozen civilians, according Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

“The vast majority of NYPD police officers are honest and dedicated to enforcing and upholding the law,” Brown said. “However, today’s indictments of one former detective and seven current police officers of the NYPD dishonor the badge.”

Brown identified the mastermind of the enterprise and main defendant Ludwig Paz — also known as Agua — 51, of Queens Village, along with 49 other individuals who were indicted Sept. 13 at Queens County Criminal Court located in Kew Gardens.

Paz was charged with enterprise corruption, promoting prostitution, conspiracy, bribery, rewarding official misconduct, promoting gambling and hindering prosecution, according to Brown.

The retired detective was ordered held on $525K bond/$325K cash bail along with a bail sufficiency hearing. He was ordered to surrender his passport and return to court Oct. 30.

According to Brown, Paz allegedly used his knowledge of the inner workings of the New York City Police Department to run the brothels. Paz is alleged to have operated or was partnered with and assisted with the day-to-day business of seven out of eight brothels with his wife, Arelis Peralta, raking in more than $2 million between August 2016 and September 2017.

The brothels are located on Liberty and Onderdonk Avenues in Queens, on Gates, Foster and Fourth Avenues and 42nd Street in Brooklyn, and on Front Street in Hempstead, L.I., according to Brown.

The illegal enterprise also included using established lotteries to run illegal gambling at a deli on Springfield Boulevard and within a beauty salon on 243rd Street, both in Queens, as well as a beauty salon on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and other undisclosed locations, according to Brown.

The operations included managers, runners and agents with working offices to place illegal bets on legal lotteries, Brown said.

The seven accomplices — consisting of two NYPD detectives, four sergeants and one police officer — who allegedly worked with Paz in the prostitution ring, were all charged with enterprise corruption, Brown said.

Brooklyn South Vice Det. Rene Samaniego, 43, is accused of aiding Paz with both the prostitution ring and the gambling organizations. Sgt. Carlos Cruz, 41, and Det. Giovanny Rojas Acosta, 40, allegedly aided Paz by providing information on law enforcement activities related to prostitution, Brown said.

Sgts. Cliff Nieves, 37, of Brooklyn and his brother, Steven Nieves, 32, of Queens, were charged with promoting prostitution and other charges for allegedly operating a brothel for the sole purpose of a bachelor party.

Police Officer Giancarlo Raspanti is also accused of providing Paz with confidential police information in exchange for discounted sex at a brothel, and Sgt. Louis Failla is charged in connection with allegedly assisting Paz following a brothel raid, Brown said.

The police officers will return to court Oct. 25, according to Brown.

The investigation began in April 2015 after a fellow police officer tipped the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau that active police officers and a retired detective were engaged in illegal operations. Investigators utilized court-authorized wiretaps, surveillance and other investigative techniques to identify the structure and individuals involved in the enterprises.

Paz used his knowledge of NYPD Vice procedures to set up protocols for new prostitution clients, according to Brown. Knowing that detectives could not expose their genitals during their interactions with prostitutes, Paz required the new clients to undress and allow themselves to be fondled to pass the brothel’s security screening, Brown said. He also allegedly used his contacts within the NYPD to thwart raids by paying for confidential police information.

The brothels used online ads to attract customers and after passing the screenings, clients would be allowed to choose a prostitute and paid anywhere from $40 for 15 minutes of sexual activity up to $160 for a full hour, Brown said.

“These NYPD police officers, who swore an oath to uphold ideals greater than themselves, have ruined their own careers and reputations,” said O’Neill. “More importantly they have diminished the great work of tens of thousands of other honest and ethical cops. Everything we do in the policing profession is hugely dependent on the trust we build with the people who live and work in our neighborhoods. Whenever officers betray that trust by engaging in criminal behavior, they tarnish the shields they wear. The New Yorkers we serve will never tolerate this, and neither will this police department.”

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

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