Four high-ranking NYPD officials were arrested after a major corruption scandal surfaced. The officials were taken into custody allegedly for accepting big bribes, including vacation trips, gifts, and even hookers, from a couple of prominent Brooklyn businessmen. In exchange of the bribes, the officials accorded preferential treatment to these personalities and their associates including offering police escorts, and shutting down entire streets for private events.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has detained five people, including four New York Police Department (NYPD) officials, in connection with a big corruption investigation, confirmed law enforcement officials, reported Sputnik News. The officers will be investigated in connection with a federal corruption probe into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign funding.
According to the Daily Mail, Deputy Inspector James Grant, Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Sgt. David Villanueva, and police officer Richard Ochetal were arrested on Monday. Apparently, all the officers were arrested simultaneously in carefully coordinated early dawn raids. All three have been stripped of their badges and were asked to turn in their guns.
They have been accused of accepting copious amounts of cash, rides in luxurious limousines, taking exotic vacations, diamonds and even prostitutes from one of de Blasio’s most prominent donors and fundraisers. In exchange, the officers provided special police protections, security cordons, escorts, and even expedited gun licenses to the associates of Jeremy Reichberg, who is the fundraiser. Incidentally, he too, was detained on Monday. It is believed the businessman funneled thousands of dollars into de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.
While Grant is a former commanding officer of the 19th and 66th precincts, Harrington was former-in-command in the housing bureau. Villanueva meanwhile worked in the department’s licensing division. The officers were arrested from their respective homes on public corruption conspiracy and bribery charges, confirmed prosecutors, reported DNAInfo. The fourth officer arrested, Ochetal has already pleaded guilty of accepting bribes in exchange of expeditiously processing gun license applications. Speaking about the scandal, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriquez said the following.
“The abuses of power alleged in this case are not victimless crimes. The victims are the citizens of New York, who rely on officers to fulfill their sworn duty. The victims are the upstanding police officers who do everything in their power to uphold the law and protect the public. The victims are public trust and confidence in law enforcement, both critical to ensuring public safety.”
Reichberg hosted a 2014 fundraiser for the mayor’s Campaign for One New York nonprofit. He has been arrested on fraud and conspiracy charges. Another person, Alex Lichtenstein, who is known by his alias Shaya, was also arrested for generously bribing officials to fast-track gun licenses. He majorly dealt with Ochetal. Speaking about the nexus between the fundraisers and the officials, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said,
“They got, in effect, a police force for themselves and their friends. Effectively, they got cops on call.”
As for the gun licenses, Bharara insisted that majority of the people who secured gun licenses through the collusion weren’t supposed to own any firearms as they did not have any justifiable need for them.
“Gun licenses were issued to people who had no business having them.”
FBI Special Agent Blaire Toleman prepared the final draft of the federal complaint that outlines the four-year relationship between Grant and Reichberg. According to the complaint, Grant accepted lavish gifts from Reichberg including trips to Rome and Las Vegas. During one such trip to Las Vegas in a private jet, Grant allegedly had sex with a prostitute who was paid for by Reichberg.
Prosecutors were able to obtain a wealth of information by wire-tapping the phones of the two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg. These men were friends with two top police officials, and served on de Blasio’s inaugural committee in 2013 and contributed to his campaign, added law enforcement officials.
Interestingly, despite such an enormous scandal, Democrat de Blasio has not been accused of any specific wrongdoing. His campaign organization still maintains that they operated well within the purview of the law.
All the officials involved in gift-for-favors corruption scandal had filed for retirement.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]