By NATHAN DUKE
A Queens grand jury has indicted a retired city police detective who allegedly operated a prostitution ring and a gambling enterprise with his wife, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced last Thursday. The enterprise allegedly also involved seven current NYPD officers and nearly three dozen others.
The ring included brothels in Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County as well as numerous gambling rooms that were set up in beauty salons and other businesses.
Ludwig Paz, 51, a retired NYPD vice detective from Queens, is the alleged ringleader of the operation, while Brooklyn South Vice Detective Rene Samaniego, 43, is accused of aiding him with the prostitution ring and gambling organizations, the DA said. Sgt. Carlos Cruz, 41, and Detective Giovanny Rojas Acosta, 40, also allegedly aided Paz by providing information on law enforcement activities relating to prostitution. All four men are charged with enterprise corruption.
Sgts. Cliff Nieves, 37, and Steven Nieves, 32, who are brothers, are charged with promoting prostitution for allegedly operating a brothel for the purpose of hosting a bachelor party. NYPD officer Giancarlo Raspanti is accused of providing Paz with confidential police information in exchange for discounted sex at a brothel, while Sgt. Louis Failla is charged with allegedly assisting Paz following a brothel raid.
“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 said that Paz used his knowledge of the inner workings of the NYPD to operate the brothels. An investigation began into Paz’s alleged activities in April 2015, following a fellow police officer’s tip to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau that active-duty officers and a retired detective were engaged in illegal operations. Investigators obtained court-authorized wiretaps and used surveillance and other techniques to identify the structure of the ring and the individuals involved in it.
Paz allegedly worked with his wife, Arelis Peralta, to run the prostitution and gambling ring. He is alleged to have assisted with the day-to-day business at seven out of eight brothels, which are located on Liberty and Onderdonk avenues in Queens; Gates, Foster and Fourth avenues and 42nd Street in Brooklyn; and Front Street in Hempstead.
Paz allegedly used his knowledge of NYPD Vice procedures to set up protocols for new prostitution clients. Knowing that detectives could not expose their genitals during their interactions with prostitutes, Paz required new clients to undress and allow themselves to be fondled to pass the brothel’s security screening. He also allegedly used his contact within the NYPD to thwart raids by paying for confidential information.
The ring is alleged to have brought in more than $2 million between August 2016 and September 2017. The brothels used online ads to attract customers. After passing the screenings, clients would be allowed to choose a prostitute, paying anywhere from $40 for 15 minutes of sexual activity up to $160 for an hour.
Paz and his wife are alleged to have profited from several illegal lottery businesses that were set up at a deli on Springfield Boulevard and a beauty salon on 243rd Street in Queens, as well as a beauty salon on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. The operations included managers, runners and agents with working offices to place illegal bets on legal lotteries.