Three high-ranking NYPD officers and one of the two businessman associated with the massive ongoing NYPD bribery scandal were arrested this morning on corruption charges related to two different schemes.
A detailed criminal complaint was released this morning involving commanding officers Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington and Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, who are accused of taking bribes from Borough Park businessman Jeremy Reichberg, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New York.
The bribes allegedly included over $100,000 on perks like flights, hotel rooms, a prostitute, jewelry, and home improvements, which Reichberg and his entourage exchanged for favors like police escorts, free security details, and special access to cultural events, reports the New York Daily News.
“They got, in effect, a private police force for themselves. Effectively, they got ‘cops on call.’ When they needed to get somewhere quick they called on Grant and Harrington for a police escort, and they got it — lights, sirens, and all,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York Monday.
Although 12 NYPD have been disciplined since April, this was the first arrest of high ranking NYPD officials. Before his arrest, James Grant, former commanding officer of Sunset Park’s 72nd Precinct, had been stripped of his badge and gun and transferred out of his command in the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct after he was accused of accepting bribes from Reichberg in April.
Reichberg, who allegedly identified himself as an “NYPD liaison,” bragged about his quid-pro-quo relationship with the NYPD. In April, we reported that both Harrington and Grant had been stripped of their badges and reassigned after being named in the corruption probe. If convicted, Grant, Harrington and Reichberg — who are each charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud — can face up to 20 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
The criminal complaint also implicated Sgt. David Villanueva of the gun licensing division, for expediting gun licenses in exchange for reported “lunch money” bribes from Borough Park Shomrim member Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, who was arrested in April amid bribery and conspiracy charges.
Villaneuva was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and accused of accepting cash, liquor and limo rides to push through the approval of gun license applications. A fourth NYPD officer, Richard Ochetal, has pleaded guilty to the same charges, and he is reportedly cooperating with federal investigators.
Several other NYPD officers from Patrol Borough Brooklyn South have already faced disciplinary action for their involvement in the wide-reaching corruption scandal. Former Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez, who was also the former commanding officer of the 70th Precinct, was transferred from his post for undisclosed reasons.
Officer Mike Millici of the 66th Precinct, who refused to testify during a federal grand jury, was also stripped of his badge and reassigned in April, but was later fired after he failed to show up for an internal NYPD hearing.
The scheme came to light during an ongoing investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio campaign fundraising, which accepted donations from Reichberg. There has been no suggestion that the mayor was involved in the criminal complaint against the officers, reports the New York Times.
Additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein.