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Trial starts for felon accused of impersonating cop, raping women on Las Vegas Strip

A trial started Wednesday for a felon accused of impersonating a vice officer and raping two prostitutes on the Strip.

Mark Picozzi, 50, faces four counts of sexual assault, three counts of open or gross lewdness, two counts each of impersonation of an officer and oppression under color of office, and one count each of robbery and battery with intent to commit sexual assault.

Picozzi was arrested in January 2014 after being accused of posing as a vice officer and attacking a woman.

Prosecutors said Picozzi somehow snuck into a room not registered in his name on the 32nd floor of the Cosmopolitan and called the Las Vegas Dream Girls escort agency, summoning a woman to the room.

After the woman arrived, Picozzi negotiated a price of about $8,000 for her daylong company, according to her testimony and phone calls played in court Wednesday.

Picozzi stopped the woman before she received any cash and told her he was with the police, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Dena Rinetti. Picozzi promised the woman he would not have her arrested if she “did what he wanted,” the prosecutor said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal typically does not name victims of sexual assault.

As she left the hotel room, the crying woman called the escort agency and said, “He just raped me.”

The woman was stopped by a Nevada Highway Patrol officer as she left the hotel. She was arrested on a series of warrants and told the officer that she had been sexually assaulted.

Not long after that incident was reported, another woman, who lived at the MGM Signature, contacted police after seeing news coverage of the allegation against Picozzi.

The woman told police Picozzi arranged a date with her on Jan. 18, 2014, at the apartment and then claimed he was a police officer before forcing her to perform oral sex and taking $2,000 from her safe, according to prosecutors.

Defense lawyer Michael Schwarz questioned the actions of the victims and how the sexual assaults were reported.

“Nobody wants to call the police,” he said. “Everybody is more concerned with their own criminality than they are with getting the police involved. … This case is about the credibility of these women. Here’s what I am not saying: I am not saying prostitutes cannot be sexually assaulted. That is not what I’m saying and don’t hear me say that. What I’m saying is: These women were not sexually assaulted. They’re not credible witnesses, and you shouldn’t use their testimony to convict my client.”

Picozzi has been convicted of several felonies in New Jersey and Florida, including robbery, kidnapping and impersonating an officer, fleeing from police and grand theft auto, according to court records.

In cross-examining an administrator with the escort agency, Schwarz tried to show that women sometimes call the agency to cancel an appointment after they have taken money from a client.

The administrator, Angie Dennis, added that women often are raped, robbed or beaten by men who call for escorts.

“This is probably the only case I know of where a dancer has contacted police and followed through,” she said. “I wish they would.”

She referred to the women who work for the agency as dancers, escorts and independent contractors and said they are prohibited from exchanging sex for cash.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find @randompoker on Twitter.

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