By LOUIS FLORES
Michael Rizzi, a retired New York Police Department officer, received a three-tiered sentence in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday, after entering a guilty plea to laundering money that Federal investigators described was the proceeds of a network of escort Web sites operated by Mr. Rizzi. The sentence included a term of 15 months in prison, four months of home confinement, and three years of supervised release, according to information obtained by Progress Queens. Additionally, Mr. Rizzi was forced to forfeit Web sites that were part of the online escort network, over $120,000 deposited in bank accounts, and a vacation home in Florida allegedly purchased with proceeds of the online escort network, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's eastern district. As previously reported by Progress Queens, Mr. Rizzi was arrested in 2016 for operating what Federal investigators charged was the successor of a prior escort service that was originally targeted for closure in 2014, according to reports.
For this report, attorneys representing Mr. Rizzi did not answer requests for comment.
The Government's investigation against Mr. Rizzi was aided in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a Federal law enforcement agency normally tasked with national security issues. Because the U.S. has not been the target of any major terrorism attack since the coördinated attack of 9/11, the Federal Government has appeared to repurpose its vast national security apparatus to investigate citizens for crimes, such as operating escort services, according to Government reform activists.
In 2015, the Government relied upon investigative work by several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to bring charges against the operators of a gay male online community bulletin board known as RentBoy.com. As reported by Progress Queens, New York City LGBT activists City protested the arrest and prosecution of the gay businessmen operating RentBoy.com over the Government's historical pattern of prosecuting men for having gay sex.
The sentencing of Mr. Rizzi marks further prosecution of police officers for misconduct and corruption by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York's eastern district, which is headquartered in Brooklyn. In 2016, Brooklyn Federal secured a 46-month prison sentence against former Nassau County police chief James Burke on civil rights violations and obstruction of justice charges, according to a report published by The New York Times. Although the public corruption investigations of the Manhattan Federal prosecutors' office often receive more media attention, the prosecutorial work of Brooklyn Federal prosecutors has, in recent years, been described to be consistent and on-part with their Manhattan counterparts, if less noted in the press. For their part, Manhattan Federal prosecutors have for several years been investigating NYPD officers in connection with a wide-ranging, corruption investigation, according to media reports, leading to the arrest of several current and former officers. Some notable exceptions exist of NYPD officers yet to be charged by each Federal prosecutors' office, however. In Brooklyn, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office have yet to press charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer identified as having applied the fatal chokehold on the late Eric Garner. In Manhattan, some top NYPD officers, including former Chief of Department Philip Banks III, have yet to be charged in connection with reports of misconduct allegedly tied to figures involved the wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the NYPD.
- Retired NYPD officer arrested after Homeland Security investigation of online escort business [Progress Queens]
- Seeing similarities to Stonewall, activists protest Rentboy case, criminalization of sex work [Progress Queens]
- Activists to hold rally at Brooklyn federal court to denounce Rentboy.com arrests [Progress Queens]
- FBI, IAB arrest top NYPD brass, Jeremy Reichberg in latest developments of Federal corruption probe [Progress Queens]