After a three-year investigation, seven NYPD officers and one retired NYPD detective have been arrested in connection with an alleged prostitution and gambling ring, reports The New York Times. Two additional officers have been placed on administrative duty pending further investigation. About forty civilians were also arrested. The investigation began after a tip from a fellow police officer. All seven of the officers have pleaded not guilty at arraignment.
Ludwig Paz, a retired NYPD Vice Detective, is the alleged mastermind behind this conspiracy. Paz, along with his wife, allegedly operated or assisted with the day-to-day operations of seven out of eight brothels involved in the ring. Using his expertise as a former Vice detective, he helped set up new protocols for sex buyers to enter the brothel in order to weed out undercover police officers. Paz has been charged with enterprise corruption, third degree promoting prostitution, fifth-degree conspiracy, third-degree bribery, second degree rewarding official misconduct, first degree promoting gambling and second-degree hindering prosecution.
Louis Failla, a Sergeant assigned to Evidence Collection in Queens, has been charged with four counts of official misconduct.
Carlos Cruz, a Sergeant in the Detective Squad in Brooklyn, has been charged with enterprise corruption and conspiracy in the fifth degree. The indictment alleges that Cruz was one of Paz’s informants.
Detective Giovanny Rojas-Acosta of the Central Investigations Division, has been charged with enterprise corruption, conspiracy in the fifth degree, hindering prosecution in the second degree, and several counts of promoting prostitution in the third degree. The indictment alleges that Rojas-Acosta was an informant who gave tips to Paz on police movements and also used his position to shut down Paz’s competition.
Detective Rene Samaniego of the Vice Squad has been deemed by the Senior Assistant District Attorney on the case, Bradley Chain, to be the worst offender. Samaniego was charged with several counts of enterprise corruption, several counts of conspiracy in the fifth degree, bribe receiving in the third degree, receiving reward for official misconduct in the second degree, hindering prosecution in the second degree, and 20 counts of promoting gambling in the first degree. It is alleged in the indictment that Samaniego was an informant to Paz regarding his teams’ police enforcement of Paz’s brothels. The New York Times further reports that Samaniego gave Paz physical descriptions of undercover officers.
One especially disturbing allegation regarding Samaniego is that when a prostituted person became the subject of a potential human trafficking investigation, Samaniego informed her traffickers at the brothel. Her traffickers then in turn are alleged to have told her what to say so as to deter prosecutors from pursuing the case. Samaniego was allegedly paid regular installments of $500 for his services.
Officer Giancarlo Raspanti has been charged with receiving reward for official misconduct in the second degree and two counts of official misconduct. He allegedly provided Paz with confidential information in exchange for discounted sex.
The CSE Institute commends the New York City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the District Attorney’s Integrity Bureau, and the Rackets and Organized Crime Bureau for their involvement in shutting down this criminal enterprise. It is heartening to see those who have abused their power and committed heinous crimes against the most vulnerable population are being held accountable for their actions. However, the CSE Institute encourages the Queens DA’s Office to bring charges against the sex buyers who were involved in this case. With “hundreds of hours of surveillance and wiretaps,” there must be plenty of evidence regarding the sex buyers. The Queens DA Press Release even reports that one of the officers was paid in discounted sex—yet he is not charged with buying sex. In order to curb the demand for sex and therefore sex trafficking, sex buyers must be held accountable. The CSE Institute also encourages the Queens DA’s office to strongly consider charging some of the members of this criminal enterprise with human trafficking, if applicable.
Further, we are incredibly concerned for the fate of the prostituted people involved in this criminal enterprise. There has been a glaring lack of reporting on whether these victims have been recovered and offered services. The only mention of the prostituted women was a quote stating that a resident of one of the neighborhoods that allegedly housed a brothel has seen “prostitutes working in the neighborhood,” and that Paz’s wife is “a former prostitute.” The media must do better. For further discussion of the impact our language has, see our previous article entitled “Border Patrol Agent Arrested Following 10-day Murder Spree of Marginalized Women.”
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.