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

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA, MIKEY LIGHT, MARCO POGGIO, EL­IZ­A­BETH KEOGH AND LARRY MCSHANE

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.

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