Brooklyn, New York - A retired New York Police Department Officer was arrested today for conspiring to launder the proceeds of a multi-million dollar prostitution ring. The arrest follows a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New York Police Department, and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Between June 2012 and May 2016, Michael Rizzi, 44, of Brooklyn, New York allegedly owned and operated a BJM/Manhattan Stakes and Entertainment (BJM), a company that provided high end prostitution services to customers in the New York metropolitan area.
“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 signifies the end to this high end prostitution ring and money laundering scheme.”
United States Attorney Robert L. 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.”
NYPD Commissioner J. William Bratton stated, “The anonymity of the internet stretches only so far. Today, Michael Rizzi’s alleged scheme of prostitution and money laundering is up.”
As is alleged in the complaint, 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.
HSI’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, HSI and the NYPD 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.
HSI 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.
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.