NYPD Officials Arrested as Part of Corruption Probe, Complaint Says

Police took bribes from a Brooklyn businessman and top Bill de Blasio fundraiser
June 20, 2016 Updated: June 20, 2016

Four members of the New York City Police Department—along with a top fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a businessman—were all arrested Monday as part of an ongoing corruption probe, according to court documents.

Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, police officer Richard Ochetal, and Sgt. David Villanueva were arrested as part of the investigation for accepting bribes, the documents show. Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg, who is a de Blasio fundraiser, and businessman Alex Lichtenstein were also arrested.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said, “The alleged conduct violates the basic principle that public servants are to serve the public, not help themselves to cash and benefits just for doing their jobs,” according to a news release.

The six were charged with accepting gifts and favors from influential people in exchange for favors and other items.

According to the criminal complaint, Grant and Harrington took “substantial bribes” from Reichberg. The documents said that Reichberg “cultivated close relationships” with NYPD members, including Grant and Harrington, and provided them with bribes, including “personal and financial benefits” such as hotel rooms, flights, jewelry, payment for uniforms, home improvements, “prime seats” to sports events, and “other luxury items.”

His “bribery of high-ranking” NYPD officers allowed him to obtain official benefits “on an as-needed basis, but also gave him considerable influence over internal NYPD affairs,” not limited to the promotion of certain favored NYPD officers, the complaint said.

Reichberg and other members of the hasidic Jewish community in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn received favors, including police escorts, assistance with private disputes, security at religious sites, and special access to parades, read the complaint. In all, he sent more than $100,000 to the NYPD officers.

In one instance, Reichberg used his NYPD connections to arrange the closure of one lane of the Lincoln Tunnel “and a police escort down that lane for a businessman visiting” New York City, the documents said.

And in another instance, Grant was taken to the Super Bowl in 2013 by an unidentified real estate executive, who arranged for a prostitute to stay in his luxury hotel room, the complaint read.

The New York Daily News reported that Reichberg carried around business cards identifying him as an “NYPD Liason,” and he claimed he could fix tickets and other police-related matters.

Another complaint said Villanueva, who works under the gun licensing division, took bribes from Lichtenstein, who is a member of the Jewish security patrol, or “Shomrim,” in the Borough Park neighborhood. He bribed Villanueva for gun licenses, paying up to $18,000 for one.

Ochetal has already pleaded guilty to the bribery charges.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Reichberg is involved in Mayor de Blasio’s fundraising efforts, serving on his inauguration committee with Jona Rechnitz, a businessman who previously pleaded guilty in a corruption probe.