October 3, 2017

Cop Who Doubled As A Low-Rent Pimp To Serve 5 1/2 Yrs. in Jail

Federal prosecutors charged that former NYPD Officer Eduardo Cornejo ran a prostitution ring involving at least 10 women, but his lawyer said he shouldn’t be a described as a pimp.

The enterprise was “more a collaborative effort,” attorney Michael Padden said at Mr. Cornejo’s sentencing Sept. 27.

‘Not a High-Priced Service’

“This isn’t some high-priced escort service,” he said. “This is a step above what would colloquially be referred to as streetwalking.”

But one of the women involved was just 16, and Mr. Cornejo pleaded guilty a year ago to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor.

U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan sentenced Mr. Cornejo, 35, of Staten Island, to 66 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. He was ordered to forfeit $5,000 and to register as a sex offender.

“Cornejo conspired to engage in the sex trafficking of a 16-year-old girl during his off-duty time, a violation of his oath to protect the community and uphold the law,” Bridget Rohde, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said in a statement.

Fired for Pot Use

Prosecutors said that before Mr. Cornejo was fired in January 2016 when he tested positive for marijuana, he would drive the women to motels throughout the metropolitan area, often immediately after completing a tour of duty.

With judicial approval, investigators intercepted communications from inside Mr. Cornejo’s vehicle. For example, he said, “The girls is at [a motel] so it’s nice and clean. It’s picking up now.” Later in the conversation, he said, “That might make it hot, though, standing outside with a bunch of girls…[Members of law enforcement] going to know what’s up real quick.”

In January 2016, investigators noticed that one of the women he was transporting appeared to be particularly young. They interviewed her, and she presented a document showing she had just turned 18.

Further investigation found that Mr. Cornejo transported her to participate in prostitution when she was just 16 and that she engaged in commercial sex acts at his direction. In a statement he made after his arrest, he confirmed that he had driven her and expected her to engage in prostitution.

Mr. Cornejo was freed on bond after his arrest in February 2016, but Judge Cogan revoked it six months later when he was found to still be transporting women to motels. He has been in Federal custody ever since.

‘Emasculated by Wife’

Mr. Padden said his involvement in prostitution started after his wife miscarried. “He was a good cop for most of his career,” Mr. Padden said. “The beginning of this spiral was the miscarriage, when his world really started to fall apart.

“The problems in his marriage really led him to seek comfort in the arms of a prostitute. He was shunned by his wife, the whole thing kind of emasculated him.”

Judge Cogan was unpersuaded. “Miscarriages happen to people, and I’m not seeing the causal connection between having a bad event and becoming the facilitator for a ring of prostitutes,” he said.

Mr. Cornejo served in the NYPD for 11 years. Before that, he was a U.S. Marine. “I understand the seriousness of my crime and I don’t take it lightly at all,” he told the Judge.