The Brothel Empire That Was Always One Step Ahead of the Law

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It’s Friday. We’re off Monday for Memorial Day.

Weather: Today starts in the low 60s and reaches a high in the 70s. Expect wind gusts around 30 miles per hour. Memorial Day should be sunny, with a high in the upper 70s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Monday (Memorial Day).

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Ludwig Paz

For years, a curious pattern played out across Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

Neighbors would complain about a brothel in their building or on their street. The police — some undercover, some with battering rams — would show up, but would leave empty-handed.

Until recently, nobody could definitely say why.

Then Ludwig Paz walked into a courtroom this week in Queens and pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution and other crimes.

The authorities said Mr. Paz learned what he needed to know about running his brothels and his criminal enterprise from an earlier job: detective with the New York Police Department.

The brothels have been described as one of the worst police scandals in recent years

In September, the police arrested 50 people in connection to the brothels. They included Mr. Paz, three sergeants, two detectives and two officers with the Police Department.

Two additional police officers were stripped of their guns and badges and placed on administrative duty.

Mr. Paz’s wife, Arelis Peralta, was also arrested. She pleaded guilty to helping her husband run the brothels.

How did they evade the police for so many years?

Mr. Paz would get information from inside the Police Department about future raids or undercover officers who were headed his way.

He would then call his accomplices, and the brothels would be relocated.

Also, Mr. Paz knew the rules the police followed when conducting investigations. He used that to his advantage, officials said.

For example, undercover officers are not allowed to expose themselves in the presence of a prostitute. So, whenever a john showed up to one of Mr. Paz’s brothels, they were required to disrobe.

Who inside the Police Department was providing this information?

One person was Mr. Paz’s former partner, Rene Samaniego.

Mr. Samaniego was a detective in the Brooklyn South vice unit and pleaded guilty to two corruption charges on May 8. That same day, he was dismissed from the Police Department.

The authorities said Mr. Samaniego earned $500 weekly from Mr. Paz’s operation in exchange for providing information that helped the brothels evade the police, included descriptions of what undercover investigators looked like and what they were wearing.

Mr. Samaniego was accused of passing along this information while he was on duty, sometimes while he was assigned to a police team working outside a brothel.

Any reason Mr. Paz broke bad?

One factor may have been Mr. Paz’s finances.

Mr. Paz joined the Police Department in 1990. By 2006, he was divorced from his first wife and was living with Ms. Peralta in a single-family home in Ozone Park, Queens.

By 2008, Mr. Paz had subprime mortgage loans and owed $690,000. He earned $120,000 in salary and overtime pay that year from the Police Department. He filed for bankruptcy.

Later, Mr. Paz was heard saying that he began his criminal enterprise in 2008. He retired from the department in 2010.

How did he get caught?

The Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau received a tip from an unnamed officer about Mr. Paz’s operation.

A bank chairman was charged in Manhattan with arranging $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort to try to obtain a high-level job in the Trump administration.

One of three sisters lured into sex with a cult leader described his harem.

Snake massage: A woman who lives outside of New Paltz, N.Y., offers massages with her 10 snakes. She even comes to Brooklyn about once a month.

“No one would listen”: Keith Bush was arrested at 17 for a crime he always insisted he had not committed. This week, a judge threw out the murder conviction. Mr. Bush is 62.

[Want more news from New York and around the region? Check out our full coverage.]

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

A Queens lawmaker wants to make Sept. 11 a day of remembrance at city public schools. [QNS]

Mayor de Blasio had used a Park Slope library as a satellite office. That didn’t prevent him from looking to cut funding from libraries. [Daily News]

All five openly gay members of the New York City Council will leave office at the end of 2021. [Gay City News]

Two teenagers were charged with assaulting and robbing a woman outside Stuyvesant Town. [Town & Village]

Friday:

Plant mint, chives and other herbs in a garden at the Langston Hughes Library in Queens. 1 p.m. [Free]

Attend a comedy show at O.P.P.A. in Manhattan that features comedians who have appeared on Comedy Central, on “Late Night With Stephen Colbert” and elsewhere. 7:30 p.m. [Free]

Saturday:

Take a guided tour of “Here We Land,” a show at Wave Hill in the Bronx that features work by artists drawing on their cultural heritage. 2 p.m. [Free with $10 admission]

Explore “Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island’s 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies,” an exhibition that opens Saturday at the Coney Island History Project in Brooklyn. 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. [Free]

Sunday:

The Loisaida Festival starts with a parade featuring the work of Garbagia, a recycled arts project. View the parade from Avenue C and East 6th Street in Manhattan. 11 a.m. [Free]

Alessandra Belloni plays Italian folk music at the West Side Community Garden in Manhattan. 6 p.m. [Free]

— Vivian Ewing

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

The sun sets. Star-crossed lovers meet. A raccoon saunters across the stage.

Such are the joys of Shakespeare in the Park.

Each year, Shakespeare plays are performed at Central Park’s outdoor Delacorte Theater. Nearly all the tickets are free. (Some seats are held for corporate sponsors, including The Times.)

This season’s plays include the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” (young people, intense attraction, halfhearted disclaimers never to marry, you get the idea), and the drama “Coriolanus” (a military general is elected to office by people who want to see things shaken up).

“Much Ado” will run through June 23.

“Coriolanus” will run through Aug. 11.

How can you get tickets?

Old school: You can wait in line at the Delacorte, at the Public Theater in Manhattan or in the other boroughs.

Tickets for today’s performance are being distributed at the Stapleton Library on Staten Island; for Saturday’s at DreamYard in the Bronx; and for Sunday’s at the New York Hall of Science in Queens.

Here is the full schedule for borough distribution.

New school: There’s a digital lottery via the TodayTix app.

What about the weather?

There’s a special magic when Shakespeare is staged in Central Park. As The Times theater reporter Michael Paulson told me, it’s “deep in the heart of Olmstead’s visionary landscape.”

“While watching the theater, you hear the birds, sometimes you hear the sounds of your fellow New Yorkers,” he said. “There’s a kind of sense of joy and pleasure and informality you don’t feel at an indoor theater.”

And, unlike indoor theaters, nature can be an issue.

Shows may be delayed, but rarely canceled, because of rain, Mr. Paulson said. They’re canceled if the rain becomes a danger to the performers, not an inconvenience to the audience.

Umbrellas are not permitted, so guests are encouraged to wear ponchos or water-resistant clothing.

And, of course, there’s the occasional cameo by a raccoon. One now has a taste for the spotlight.

It’s Friday — enjoy the long weekend!

Dear Diary:

I was on a downtown No. 6 train. There was a woman standing across from where I was sitting who was holding onto the pole with one hand and holding her cellphone in the other.

Her shoulder bag caught my eye. Mine had been falling apart for a long time, and hers was the one I had dreamed about but never found: the perfect size and shape, with pockets in the right places.

I couldn’t tell the brand from where I was sitting. I would have to ask her. But her demeanor seemed to say, “Stay away!” When she wasn’t staring at her cellphone, she was staring into space, preoccupied.

If I didn’t grab the moment, she would get off and I would regret not having asked.

I stood up and approached her.

“Excuse me,” I said.

She glanced up toward me, expressionless, and removed her earbuds.

I took a deep breath.

“I really like your bag and am wondering where you got it.” My knees were shaking slightly.

“Seriously?” she said. “I’ve been admiring your pants and wondering where you got them, but wasn’t sure if I should ask you.”

— Meryl Danziger

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