A New York Police Department deputy chief, a deputy inspector, a sergeant, and a businessman were arrested Monday in a sweep on the biggest municipal police force in the United States.
Arrested on federal bribery charges were Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, and Sergeant David Villanueva.
Also arrested was Brooklyn-based businessman Jeremy Reichberg.
Harrington, Grant, and Reichberg were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud.
They were allegedly part of a bribery scheme involving tens of thousands of dollars in meals, trips, home renovations, and other benefits in exchange for official NYPD actions, including private police escorts, ticket fixing, and assistance in settling private disputes, the DOJ said.
Villanueva was a supervisor in the NYPD gun licensing division. He was charged in Manhattan federal court with bribery offenses for allegedly taking cash bribes to expedite and approve gun licenses.
Another defendant, Police Officer Richard Ochetal, who formerly worked in the gun licensing division, has already pleaded guilty, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
Ochetal admitted taking bribes in exchange for the approval of gun license applications. He’s cooperating with the DOJ.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney 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.”
“Jeremy Reichberg allegedly showered senior police officials, Commanding Officers Michael Harrington and James Grant, with bribes, and in exchange, got ‘cops on call,’ a private police force for themselves and their friends,” Bharara said.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the arrests came after a joint investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau along with the FBI and Bhahara’s office.
The NYPD has about 34,000 uniformed officers.
Grant allegedly took a private jet trip to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, worth about $57,000, and a two-night stay in a hotel in Rome, worth more than $1,000. He also allegedly accepted home renovations worth about $12,000, and jewelry.
Harrington allegedly accepted private security work worth tens of thousands of dollars for a company he unofficially helped manage. He and his family took a trip to Chicago worth about $6,000.
Grant and Harrington allegedly “diverted police resources to investigate private, civil matters,” the DOJ said. “Both assisted with VIP access to parades and other New York City events.”
Grant also allegedly gave Reichberg cards that allowed him to avoid tickets when pulled over by police and he helped Reichberg get a gun license from the NYPD
Harrington also allegedly sent police resources to religious sites upon request.
Villanueva, the former supervisor in the NYPD’s gun licensing division, and Officer Ochetal allegedly omitted some criminal history checks for gun license applicants, or only ran checks after they approved licenses.
“They also approved applications despite red flags that, had they not been bribed, may have led those applications to be rejected,” the DOJ said.
They approved applications of individuals with prior arrests and previous allegations of domestic violence, the DOJ said.
Some applicants got gun licenses in weeks, “whereas the process normally takes months to, in some instances, over a year,” the DOJ said.
Grant, 43, Harrington, 50, and Reichbert, 42, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. it carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
Villanueva, 42, was charged with one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. If convicted on both counts, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Ochetal, 37, faces up to 10 years in prison after his guilty plea to one count of bribery, and up to five years in prison for his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.