As the NYPD corruption scandal continues to unravel at a feverish pace, on Monday it was reported that members of the top brass of the department were arrested on federal corruption charges. Those included three commanders and a deputy chief.
If that were not shocking enough for this rueful tale of malfeasance at Brooklyn’s 66th precinct and beyond, it appears that a Brooklyn businessman, and member of the insulated Orthodox Jewish community was also nabbed by authorities. According to details in court papers, the charges against the top cops and the ones offering the lucrative bribes stemmed from one of several ongoing investigations into the fundraising apparatus of the DeBlasio administration. The fund-raising investigation and several other inquiries by federal prosecutors, the F.B.I. and other agencies focused on the mayor’s donors. The scope of the broader fund-raising inquiries remains unclear.
Arrested were Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington, 50; Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, 43; and Sgt. David Villanueva, 42, and Mr. Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, Brooklyn. They were expected to appear in United States District Court in Manhattan on Monday afternoon. The officer who worked in the pistol license division who has already pleaded guilty was identified as Richard Ochetal. Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, had been a target of the fund-raising investigation until recent weeks, when he pleaded guilty to corruption charges and began cooperating with the federal authorities.
The roundup of these police supervisors is the most significant in the recent history of the department.
The unsealed court papers offered salient details of the extent of bribery that took place amongst the highest ranking members of the department. It was reported that the top cops received expensive meals, free domestic and international trips, Christmas presents for their family members, and the referral of business to a security company associated with one of the officials; among other gifts. The deputy inspector was also accused of receiving a trip on a private jet to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl weekend in 2013, accompanied by a prostitute. The sergeant was charged in a separate but related scheme that involved aiding applicants for firearms licenses, the papers said.
A quid pro quo was established with the senior police officials. In turn, they took official action to placate the businessmen.
The NYT reported that such actions included cops closing a lane of traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel in order to provide a police escort for a businessman visiting the United States, dispatching police officers to the area near a jewelry business run by associates of Reichberg to disperse people handing out fliers for a rival business, sending officers to disperse protesters in front of the business of an associate of Reichberg, according to the court papers.
The papers also indicate that both Rechnitz and Reichberg, both Orthodox Jews, visited the Staten Island home of the deputy inspector on Christmas Day of 2013 and personally delivered video games as gifts to his children and jewelry for his wife while donning Santa elf hats.
The arrests in the early morning hours by agents with the F.B.I. and investigators from the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau would be followed by the execution of search warrants, according to officials. The charges included bribery, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy, and they were scheduled to be announced at a news conference later on Monday.