A retired NYPD officer from Bensonhurst was arrested by police and federal agents today for allegedly running a massive high-end prostitution network, pulling in tens of millions of dollars each year.
Michael Rizzi, 44, who allegedly charged up to $2,000 an hour for his high-end hookers, was charged with conspiring to launder the proceeds of a multi-million dollar prostitution ring and is scheduled to appear in a federal court this afternoon, announced the Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“The investigation and prosecution of money laundering offenses is a priority program of this Office. With this arrest, we continue to unmask organizations that launder millions of dollars through alleged criminal networks,” said Capers.
DNAinfo notes that Rizzi, who retired from the NYPD on a disability pension in 2000, has family ties to Brooklyn’s Italian Mafia:
Sources say Rizzi is married to Jill Juliano, the daughter of Gambino crime family member Richard Juliano, whose older brother is Joseph (Sonny) Juliano, a powerful Brooklyn-based captain in that Mafia family.
Joseph Juliano was convicted in 2003 by then-state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for running a major gambling ring in New York City and was sent to prison for four years. His brother Richard was sentenced to two years in prison in a related gambling case.
A criminal complaint unsealed today in federal court charges that Rizzi owned and operated BJM/Manhattan Stakes and Entertainment (BJM), a company that provided high-end prostitution services to customers in New York City, from June 2012 and May 2016.
Until January 2016, BJM had an office located at 466 Wild Avenue in Staten Island and advertised its services on more than 50 websites, including janeblow.com, plushplaymates.com, and flygirlsnyc.com.
BJM’s employees included telephone bookers who arranged appointments between prostitutes and BJM’s customers, as well as drivers who collected cash and receipts from BJM’s prostitutes.
The government’s investigation revealed that Rizzi accepted applications for his “escort” business using his personal email account.
“I am a fun loving girl who loves sex… I love sex and if I can get paid for it, why not?” one applicant responded, according to federal authorities.
BJM is a successor to Pure Platinum Models, a company that offered prostitution services and was snagged in an NYPD and HSI investigation in 2012. Pure Platinum Models was closed in 2014, and its owner was convicted of laundering more than one million dollars through the company. In 2012, BJM began providing many of the same prostitution services as Pure Platinum Models and used many of the same websites, employees, and prostitutes to conduct its business.
“The anonymity of the internet stretches only so far,” said NYPD Commissioner Bratton. “Today, Michael Rizzi’s alleged scheme of prostitution and money laundering is up.”
Prostitutes working for Rizzi charged customers as much as $2,000 an hour and several Johns spent more than $100,000 for the company’s services, the investigation revealed. Some clients paid more than $25,000 for a single night. Over the course of its operations, BJM collected millions of dollars in payments, including more than $2 million in credit card payments alone between October 2012 and March 2016.
A review of various personal and business bank accounts maintained by Rizzi revealed that they were used to promote the prostitution business by laundering almost $200,000 disbursed via Paychex for BJM employee salaries, $25,000 to tollforwarding.com for forwarding phone numbers listed on various of Rizzi’s websites to his phone bookers, $10,000 to GoDaddy.com through which Rizzi registered over 80 websites, and $112,000 to Electronic Merchant Services for processing the more than $2 million customer credit card transactions.
Earlier today, law enforcement searched two addresses associated with BJM, as well as a vehicle paid for with business proceeds. The government also took steps to restrain more than 50 domain names registered to Rizzi that were associated with BJM and unsealed a civil complaint seeking the forfeiture of a residence in Florida which Rizzi purchased with the alleged criminal proceeds from his prostitution enterprise.
“Rizzi, a former police officer, once entrusted to enforce the law now finds himself accused of breaking it by allegedly laundering money from the proceeds of an on-line prostitution ring,” stated HSI New York Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “Working with our local partners at the NYPD, this arrest and HSI’s seizure of dozens of websites signify the end to this high-end prostitution ring and money laundering scheme.”
If convicted of money laundering conspiracy, Rizzi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.