COP LAUNCHED OWN VICE CREW
Ex-detective learned hooker, gambling biz on the beat, then roped in family and pals in blue, NYPD probers say
If you can’t bust ’em, join ’em.
Corrupt ex-cop Ludwig Paz, with a little help from his family and his hooker-loving NYPD friends, surrendered his badge to run a lucrative network of brothels, authorities charged Thursday.
The retired detective used what he learned across nearly a decade on the vice squad to launch his own $2 million-ayear prostitution and gambling ring in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, said prosecutors.
“He was in vice for the last part of his career, and we believe he familiarized him business. self with the operations, both in gambling and with prostitution,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs Joseph Reznick.
“And he just (gravitated) to that type of business once he retired.”
Paz, 51, of Queens, and his wife Arelis Peralta were identified as partners in the eight brothel enterprise where his former brothers in blue allegedly fed him enough information to dodge arrest. In return, the cops received cash payments or discounted romps with Paz’s prostitutes, officials charged.
Peralta, 43, fainted and collapsed inside Queens Criminal Court when her daughters were arraigned for their roles in the family The mom was sobbing as four Internal Affairs Bureau detectives carried her from the courtroom.
“The nexis to this whole case was Paz,” said Reznick. “They’re all familiar with Paz. They’re all friendly with Paz.”
All seven officers arraigned Thursday were released on their own recognizance, with officials alleging the sordid septet had sex with the prostitutes while on and off duty. A total of 49 suspects, the vast majority civilians, were taken down by “Operation Zap” after an April 2015 tip from a fellow cop about Paz and his operation.
Among Paz’s innovative self-protection techniques was a requirement that new customers get naked and let the hookers fondle their private parts, since detectives are barred from exposing themselves while working prostitution cases, authorities said.
His other method was simpler and more direct: Paz tapped his contacts in the NYPD to avoid police interference, paying for confidential information about planned law enforcement raids, officials charged.
“They took an oath to serve and protect the public and they shattered those ideals,” said Queens Assistant District Attorney Bradley Chain of the NYPD defendants. “Protection didn’t come from criminals, it came from police.”
Investigators eventually collected information from 50 wiretaps and 100 surveillance and undercover operations.
Detective Rene Samaniego of Brooklyn South Vice went as far as warning Paz about impending raids in great detail within seconds of leaving NYPD surveillance vans, authorities charged. He was regularly paid in $500 increments for his illegal insights, officials charged.
The detective “was giving play-by-play instructions regarding what officers were coming out, what time, what undercovers were wearing,” said Chain. “His conduct is egregious and far beyond any of the other officers who were charged.”
Officer Giancarlo Raspanti, a co-defendant in the case, allegedly traded information for discounted sex at one of the
brothels — getting a break from the usual $160-an-hour tab. And Sgt. Louis Failla was charged with lending a helping hand to Paz after an NYPD raid on one of the houses of ill repute.
“The reality is a number of our uniformed members of various ranks tarnished the NYPD shields that they wore,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. “They’ve ruined their own careers and reputations. More importantly, they have diminished the great work of tens of thousands of honest, honorable and ethical cops.”
Paz was additionally charged with running gambling rooms operating out of two beauty salons, a deli and other unidentified outlets in Brooklyn and Queens. He retired with a clean record in October 2010, shortly after his 20th anniversary with the NYPD.
Luis Paz, the estranged 74-year-old father of the arrested retired detective, told the Daily News he was surprised to hear the creepy charges against his son.
“It shocked me,” the Staten Island man said at his home. “Shocked me … We are human beings. We make mistakes. I tried to be the best father I could.”
According to the disappointed dad, Ludwig Paz was promoted to detective in the late ’90s — the same time period where father and son had a falling out that permanently fractured their relationship. Luis Paz declined to discuss the specifics, but said they speak on the phone occasionally and sometimes get together around Christmas.
“I gave him the best education I could,” the father told The News. “I sent him to the best schools, private schools. I tried to give him the best life.”
Paz’s stepdaughters Jerlis and Arisbel Guzman, in addition to serving as jacks-of-all-trades in the brothels, allegedly smuggling profits for their parents back to the Dominican Republic. They were freed without bail.
Though their family lives in a modest two-story rental home, a white Mercedes and a Range Rover were parked in the driveway.
“They’ve got a lot of cars,” said one neighbor. “I thought (Paz) worked in a dealership.”
The first arraignments for the accused cops started Thursday morning with Sgt. Cliff Nieves, 37, and his 32year-old brother, Officer Steven Nieves, bolting from the Queens County Courthouse after they were released without bail.
The Nieves brothers were charged with promoting prostitution and are accused of arranging a pop-up bachelor party inside one of the brothels.
“Everyone is shocked,” a fellow officer said of Cliff Nieves, a father of four. “Quietest guy in that unit. Always tried to do the right thing.”
One fellow cop escorting the brothers out of court was a bit louder, shouting at reporters to “Get the f--- outta here!”
The Paz prostitution ring advertised online and charged customers $40 for 15 minutes of sex, or up to $160 for an hour.
When the cops involved were questioned by Internal Affairs, they were falling all over themselves to implicate one another, according to a source with knowledge of the case.
“These guys couldn’t stop talking about what they did and what their buddies did,” the source said. “One guy was talking so much about what the other suspects did that the IAB detectives had to stop him and take a lunch, just to slow him down.
“When you think about loyalty among cops … those days are long gone.”
Retired Detective Ludwig Paz (far left) was allegedly at the center of an NYPD prostitution ring with his wife, Arelis Peralta (left).
Detective Rene Samaniego (left), Sgt. Carlos Cruz (center) and Sgt. Louis Failla (right) were among cops charged in ring. Far right, Paz’s wife Peralta is helped after fainting during arraignment in Queens court Thursday.