Brooklyn Resident Arrested For Conspiring To Launder Multi-Million Dollar Prostitution Service Proceeds
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Michael Rizzi, a retired NYPD Police Officer, with conspiring to launder the proceeds of a multi-million dollar prostitution operation. Rizzi was arrested earlier today, and his initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky at the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).
As is alleged in the complaint, between June 2012 and May 2016, Rizzi owned and operated BJM/Manhattan Stakes and Entertainment (BJM), a company that provided high-end prostitution services to customers in the New York metropolitan area. Until January 2016, BJM had an office located at 466 Wild Avenue in Staten Island. BJM advertised its services on more than 50 websites, including janeblow.com, nycescortsnyc.com, alluringcompanions.com, lushplaymates.com, plushplaymates.com, lusciouscompanions.com, iconcompanionsnyc.com, pureplaymates.com, perfect10club.com, flygirlsnyc.com, and eliteescortsnyc.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 email account. One applicant responded, “I am a fun loving girl who loves sex… I love sex and if I can get paid for it why not?”
BJM is a successor to Pure Platinum Models, a company that offered prostitution services. In 2012, the NYPD and HSI opened an investigation into Pure Platinum Models for various criminal offenses, including promotion of prostitution and money laundering. 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 prostitutes working for BJM charged their customers as much as $2,000 an hour. The investigation into the company’s financial records revealed that several of BJM’s customers each spent more than $100,000 for the company’s services, and that some clients paid more than $25,000 for a single night. Over the course of its operations, BJM collected millions of dollars of 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 pertaining to his prostitution business, and $112,000 to Electronic Merchant Services for processing the more than $2 million customer credit card transactions referred to above.
Earlier today, law enforcement executed search warrants at 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.
United States Attorney Capers stated, “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.”
“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.”
NYPD Commissioner Bratton stated, “The anonymity of the internet stretches only so far. Today, Michael Rizzi’s alleged scheme of prostitution and money laundering is up.”
The charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of money laundering conspiracy, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer S. Carapiet, Erik D. Paulsen, and Claire Kedeshian.
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-MJ-00487