A former New York City cop was arrested Tuesday over what prosecutors describe as a swanky prostitution ring catering to some of America's wealthiest men. Michael Rizzi, who served on the NYPD from 1991 to 2000, is accused of running dozens of sites that delivered escorts to the doors of johns for the cost of up to $2,000 an hour, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Lending the allegations an additional air of intrigue is the fact that Rizzi happens to be married to Jill Juliano, the niece of a reputed Gambino crime family captain.
According to the complaint, Michael "Bruce" Rizzi ran the shady business beginning in June 2012. Records show he's the owner of 58 active domain names related to escort services, like pureplaymates.com and lusciouscompanions.com.
Those sites include forms for women to apply for work as an escort, and one such applicant apparently balked when Rizzi asked her to meet in person for an interview.
"I'm sorry darling, google 'escorts in nyc' im [sic] number one for a reason. I get the most business, my girls make the most money, my clients are the wealthiest people in the world," he replied, according to the complaint. "Been doing this 10 years never a problem."
Patrons of the escort service were apparently quite wealthy. One man hired an escort for a trip to Jamaica where they would stay on a private resort. Other clients were quoted prices of $600 an hour, or $8,400 for a 14-hour appointment. Another john who interviewed with Myles Mahady, the investigating NYPD detective, claimed he and two friends hired three of Rizzi's employees for $25,000, which covered both sex and cocaine provided by the escorts.
This isn't Rizzi's first arrest: In July 2009, the former cop was charged with enterprise corruption for his role as "super agent" at the center of a sports betting ring. He had 400 clients, according to the feds, and was convicted in 2011, ultimately paying a fine.
Meanwhile, Rizzi's wife's uncle Joseph "Sonny" Juliano allegedly raked in millions running a numbers racket and taking illegal sports bets, although he claimed to only make $106 in annual income. Juliano was arrested in 2003, at the age of 65, for running illegal gambling rooms in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Westchester County, and Long Island, and prosecutors said at the time that he often used old men with canes to collect on bets. Later that year, he was sentenced to a minimum of a year and a half in prison after an agreement with the state caused him to plead guilty to one count of attempted enterprise corruption.
Juliano never admitted to being part of the mafia. But Jill Juliano's father Richard, himself reportedly a Gambino soldier, also pleaded guilty in 2003 to illegal gambling charges.
"The mob has of course tried to adapt to the times and online 'escort' services are among some of the very lucrative vices that such organizations like to get a cut of or fully operate themselves," mafia historian Christian Cipollini told VICE.
Rizzi was set to be freed Tuesday on a $500,000 bond posted by his wife and backed by her house, according to a spokesperson from the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn. Special conditions included no contact with customers, escorts, employees, or potential witnesses. But the New York Times reports the suspect was re-arrested prior to his release on state gun charges.
Rizzi was to be arraigned in federal court on Wednesday afternoon.
"My client has never denied running an escort service, which is a companion service," Rizzi's attorney, Javier Solano, told me. "I don't think people understand the concept of this. They are one hundred percent legal and legitimate. Whether or not the person asking for the person to come over expects something other than companionship is not my client's problem."
Solano added that Rizzo never did anything shady, like put his business under another person's name. But the case may invite fresh scrutiny of any lingering ties between (former) cops and organized crime in America's largest city.
"This isn't the first NYPD officer to marry into the Gambino crime family," said Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD detective sergeant who joined the force the same year as Rizzi. "The job is falling apart at the seams."
This post has been updated to include additional information.
*Correction 5/25: An earlier version of this article misstated the nature of the relationship between Jill Juliano and Joseph "Sonny" Juliano. Juliano is her uncle, not her older brother.
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