For months, an investigation has been launched by the FBI and NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau into the department, involving bribery and corruption, as well as financial contributions to the campaign of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Earlier this week, several commanders of the NYPD and contributors to the De Blasio campaign were arrested, as a result. The cops arrested include Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, Officer Richard Ochetal and Sgt. David Villanueva. Most stand accused of being broke off for years with cash and gifts, like “jewelry for the police inspector’s wife; a video game system for the chief’s children; tickets to Brooklyn Nets games; hotel rooms in Rome and Chicago; even a private-jet flight to Las Vegas, with a prostitute on board.”
The benefactors were NYC businessmen Jeremiah Reichberg (a member of the Borough Park Orthodox Jewish Community) and Jona Rechnitz, the financier-turned-informant. The two are believed to have lavished the cops to the tune of “well over” $100,000. They dressed up as elves on Christmas 2013 and drove to the cops’ houses to deliver some of the gifts mentioned above. According to the NY Daily News, “Reichberg had ‘ready access’ to the highest levels of the NYPD through Harrington. They had a ‘one-stop shop for assistance via Harrington.” At the the wealthy duo’s behest, Inspector Grant was promoted to the highly desired position of commander of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
In return, Reichberg, 42, and Rechnitz, 33, got exclusive consultation from the cops. A January 2015 wiretap caught Grant advising Reichberg to tell a friend to falsely claim to be a diamond distributor in order to expedite the gun permit process. The Daily News reports:
On behalf of a jewelry store, Reichberg used his NYPD connection in one instance to disperse people handing out brochures for a rival diamond salesman.
When Reichberg was having a dispute with another businessman over a $250,000 diamond, Harrington got another police big, who sources identified as Timothy Beaudette, the then commanding officer of the Midtown North Precinct stationhouse, to try to settle the dispute.
Furthermore, the businessmen essentially hired the NYPD to be their own “private police force for themselves and their friends,” according to US attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. The New York Times elaborates:
In recent years, the senior police officials were quick to play the roles of chauffeur, bodyguard and concierge to the two businessmen, according to a criminal complaint sworn out by Blaire Toleman, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a public corruption squad.
On some occasions, the police officials drove the businessmen around town and to the airport, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Reichberg and Rechnitz also allegedly took advantage of “free security at religious sites, fixed tickets, and special access to parades and other cultural events.”
With the “cops on call,” Reichberg was feeling himself. He started touting himself around town as the “police plug” of sorts. He claimed to be a “community liaison” to the NYPD who could straighten out tickets and other police issues. He even went so far as to hand out business cards promoting his self-imposed title.
Villanueva was charged in a separate, but related case. He was assigned to the gun licensing division. According to the feds, Villanueva was in cahoots with Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein of the Borough Park Shrorim (Jewish security patrol). Villanueva and Grant are accused of accepting cash and gifts in exchange for swift gun licensing for his clients. Grant got one of Lichtenstein’s clients approved in two months, when it usually takes a year. In return, Lichtenstein paid for work done on Grant’s house. Villanueva was paid as much as $18,000 per gun license for about 100 to 150 gun licenses over the years.
Rechnitz pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit honest services fraud and agreed to cooperate with the feds. Ochetal (also assigned to the gun licensing department) followed suit, pleading guilty before indictment and turning informant. Grant and Harrington posted $250,000 bond and were released. Villanueva was slated for release on Monday after pleading not guilty to charges and paying a $200,000 personal bond. Reichberg anticipated release on $500,000 bond.
Everybody’s got a price.