Jun 20, 2016 6:45 PM
NYC police officials charged in bribery corruption scandal
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) Two high-ranking New York Police Department officers were arrested Monday on charges they took over $100,000 worth of free flights, prostitutes, expensive meals and other bribes in exchange for providing a "private police force" for local businessmen.
Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant and a third defendant, Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg, were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud the latest development in a series of overlapping public corruption investigations coordinated by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. David Villanueva, an NYPD sergeant assigned to the gun license bureau, was arrested on charges of conspiring to commit bribery.
In exchange for the bribes, Reichberg and others "got a private police force for themselves and their friends," Bharara said at a news conference. "Effectively, they got 'cops on call.'"
The four arrests follow months of revelations that have embarrassed the nation's largest police department and put Mayor Bill de Blasio on the spot about his campaign financing. Both Reichberg and another businessman who has already pleaded guilty in the case contributed heavily to de Blasio's campaign.
The mayor, a Democrat, hasn't been implicated in any wrongdoing.
A criminal complaint accompanying the latest charges described how Reichberg exploited his connections within the police department to speed up gun license processing, make tickets disappear, get police escorts for him and his friends, get assistance from uniformed personnel to resolve personal disputes and boost security at religious sites and events.
Reichberg even managed to get his connections to shut down a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan and obtain a police escort for a businessman visiting the U.S., the complaint said.
In return, Reichberg and another businessman showered his favored police officials with well over $100,000 in benefits from 2012 to 2015, including prostitutes, home improvements and prime seats to sporting events, prosecutors said. Harrington and an unidentified police official let a businessman buy dinner once or twice a week for 18 months at expensive Manhattan restaurants, where bills ran $400 to $500, they said.
Among the other favors was $59,000 spent on a private jet in February 2013 that took Reichberg, an unidentified detective and Grant, commander of an Upper East Side precinct, to Las Vegas, the court papers said. The complaint said Reichberg and another businessman arranged for a prostitute to join the flight and spend the weekend with the group, staying in Grant's luxury hotel room.
According to the complaint, the prostitute told law enforcement agents that Grant and others "took advantage of her services" during the trip.
The court papers also alleged Reichberg and an unidentified real estate businessman who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities wore elf hats as they drove to Grant's Staten Island home on Christmas 2013 to give Grant a video game system for his children and a $1,000 piece of jewelry for his wife. Authorities said they captured Grant on a recorded telephone call a year later grumbling that his two "elves" did not come for Christmas that year.
Andrew Weinstein, Harrington's lawyer, said the charges against his client were politically motivated.
"Chief Harrington is a loyal and devoted family man who has an unblemished record and has spent the last three decades working tirelessly to keep New York City safe," Weinstein said. "One would be hard-pressed to find a straighter arrow in their quiver."
Susan Necheles, Reichberg's lawyer, said in an email: "Mr. Reichberg did not commit a crime."
Reichberg's "only mistake," Necheles said, was befriending a government cooperator "who is desperately trying to get others in trouble in order to curry favor with prosecutors and save his own skin."
The head of Grant's union declined to comment. His lawyer, John Meringolo, said his office had not yet evaluated all the evidence.
"We believe Mr. Grant did not commit a federal crime," he said.
Villanueva's lawyer, Andrew Quinn, declined to comment.
Harrington and Grant were each released on $250,000 bail while Reichberg was freed on $500,000 bail.
Villanueva, who pleaded not guilty to an indictment, was freed on $200,000 bail.
Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister and Kiley Armstrong contributed to this report.