NYPD Brass Hit With Lurid Corruption Case

     MANHATTAN (CN)A New York City police liaison and real-estate businessman got their own personal “cops on call” in return for lavish gifts to four high-ranking police officers, including a private jet with a prostitute flying to Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend, federal prosecutors said Monday.
     The charges unsealed Monday go as high as the NYPD’s deputy chief, and the New York Times reported that they stem from one of the continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fundraising.
     The mayor is not named or alluded to in any of the court papers released Monday.
     At a noon press conference, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that the NYPD brass accepted “well more than $100,000” in return for a “private police force” for their benefactors and their friends.
     “Effectively, they got cops on call,” Bharara told reporters.
     
Michael Harrington, a 30-year veteran of the force, allegedly had a “one stop shop” of access to the highest levels of the NYPD in his role as second-in-command to the Chief of Department’s office in One Police Plaza.
     When Harrington assumed that role in June 2013, Philip Banks III served as the Chief of Department, a position that a June 17 federal complaint refers to as “Chief-1.”
     Banks is not charged with wrongdoing in the court papers unsealed Monday, but Harrington faces public corruption charges along with James Grant, a 20-year veteran who occupied top posts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
     Once a captain and commanding officer at Sunset Park’s 72nd precinct, Grant also supervised roughly 240 officers in his post as a deputy inspector of the Upper East Side’s 19th precinct.
     Prosecutors say that Jeremy Reichberg, a community liaison for the NYPD in Borough Park, kept these officers stocked with “jewelry, business cards, expensive meals, and other luxury items.”
     An unnamed cooperating witness, whom prosecutors describe as a real estate businessman, provided more expensive inducements like “flights, hotel rooms, prostitutes, expensive meals, home improvements, and prime seats to sporting events, among other things,” according to the complaint.
     In 2013, Reichberg and this witness paid $59,000 to fly Grant and a prostitute aboard a private jet to Las Vegas for Super Bowl XLVII weekend, the complaint states.
     Prosecutors say that the witness helped underwrite Grant’s Roman holiday that summer, shelling out $1,066 for what the real estate mogul called the “most luxurious hotel in Rome.”
     Reichberg and the cooperating witness played Santa’s little helpers that Christmas, driving to Grant’s home in Staten Island wearing elf hats and bearing a video game system for the officer’s children and jewelry for his wife, according to the complaint.
     As for Harrington, prosecutors allege, Reichberg and the witness ran up $500 bills on fancy dinners for the deputy and his chief.
     Prosecutors say that the witness also gave Harrington tickets to Brooklyn Nets and New York Rangers games, and paid roughly $6,5000 for his family’s hotel rooms during their vacation in Chicago in 2014.
     The real estate mogul claims he got the NYPD brass to treat the force as their personal security company.
     Due to the mogul’s connections, the NYPD shooed people who handed out fliers for rival businesses, dispersed protesters in front of an associate’s companies, and even closed a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel to provide a police escort for a visiting businessman, according to the complaint.
     Prosecutors claim that the NYPD also helped gave “VIP treatment” to the witness and his friends, getting them past police barricades for parades, the New York City marathon, and the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square.
     One of Reichberg’s contacts pulled out a card with Grant’s name to get out of trouble for “driving like a fucking lunatic,” in the words of the officer who pulled him over, prosecutors say.
     Heightening the danger to the public, prosecutors say, the officers also helped the witness obtain gun licenses for his friends, including Alex Lichtenstein, who recently pleaded not guilty to bribing officers with $900,000 to help arm a Hasidic watchdog group.
      Lichtenstein’s latest indictment now names NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva as the source within the department’s Licensing Division. Villanueva is accused of rubber-stamping applications of up to 150 of Lichtenstein’s clients. One of them had previously been arrested for domestic abuse and bribing a public official, prosecutors allege.
     
Officer Richard Ochetal, who is also within the Licensing Division, pleaded guilty last week in connection with the scheme and is now said to be cooperating with the government.
     Roughly two years after his first Super Bowl junket, Grant was recorded complaining that Reichberg could not hook him up with tickets to the next big game and passed him over for Christmas presents, prosecutors say.
     “You don’t even invite me to the Super Bowl, what the fuck,” Grant told him, according to the complaint.
      When Reichberg accused Grant of being too busy for him, the officer replied: “No no no. First of all, first of all, the two elves didn’t come for fucking Christmas number one, I got your fuckin Westchester county cards, the cards you asked me to make up, you fucking broke my balls about [the businessman],” according to the complaint.
     
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters that Harrington, Grant and Villanueva have been suspended and been forced to turn over their guns.
     Harrington and Grant have both filed their retirement papers, and Ochetal is now on modified assignment, the commissioner added.
     
Bratton denied that the case demonstrated the systemic corruption of the NYPD in the 1970s — as brought to light by legendary whistleblower Frank Serpico, who was later immortalized in a movie starring Al Pacino.
     
The commissioner instead framed the case as evidence of an “aggressive system” of enforcement.
     He said he could not comment on whether Chief Banks, who retired two years ago, would face any retroactive discipline for the lavish dinners described in the complaint.
     In April, DNAInfo reported that Banks received between $250,000 and $500,000 from a politically connected businessman “at the center of a federal probe into a pay-for-favors scandal engulfing the NYPD and City Hall.”
     Attorneys for Harrington and Reichberg, who were both released on bail Monday, did not respond to email requests for comment.
     Grant’s attorney John Meringolo said in a phone interview, “At this time, we do not feel a federal crime has been committed.”
      His client surrendered his passport at a hearing Monday afternoon before a federal magistrate, who released Grant on a $250,000 bond and restricted the inspector’s travel to four districts within the Tri-State area.
     Villanueva, who has a $200,000 bail with restricted travel, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment before U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein.

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