Three New York City police officials were indicted on corruption charges following a federal probe that, as of mid-April, had led to five New York City Police Department commanders being placed on alternate assignments or on leave, USA Today reports.
The arrests include two high-ranking officials who allegedly accepted bribes worth more than $100,000, including expensive game tickets, the services of a prostitute and an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, the site notes.
Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. Jeremy Reichberg, a self-described community liaison, was accused of buying special privileges from the police—including getting a lane down in the Lincoln Tunnel and an expedited gun license—with expensive gifts.
NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva, who was a supervisor in the department's gun-licensing division, was also arrested Monday for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for approving gun applications, USA Today notes.
Another officer who worked in the gun-licensing division, Richard Ochetal, admitted taking payoffs. His guilty plea was unsealed Monday.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara blasted the officers, releasing a statement saying that the officers' "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.’’
Reichberg and an unidentified businessman, who is cooperating with the authorities after pleading guilty, “were effectively able to have Grant and Harrington on-call—ready and willing to use their official authority within the NYPD to provide assistance," an affidavit charges.
Reichberg was able to get an expedited license to carry a concealed gun within about two months of applying. That process, USA Today notes, usually takes a year. Reichberg was also allowed to get a lane in the Lincoln Tunnel closed and a police escort for another businessperson visiting from abroad. The unidentified businessman got VIP access to a New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square and other special events.
Harrington and Grant allegedly were paid back nicely in return. According to the report, in August 2013, Grant and his family received a complimentary two-night stay at a hotel in Rome. He also celebrated the February 2013 Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas, even flying on a private jet that cost $57,000 and enjoying the services of a prostitute, according to the report.
Meanwhile, in 2014, prosecutors charge Harrington was paid back with tickets to see the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Rangers, with total ticket prices adding up to more than $2,000. He also received thousands of dollars in free meals.
Harrington's lawyer, Andrew Weinstein, defended his client, saying: "The charges against Chief Harrington represent the inherent danger to all of us when law enforcement makes charging decisions that are politically motivated. Chief Harrington is a loyal and devoted family man who has an unblemished record and has spent the past three decades working tirelessly to keep New York City safe. It is my privilege to represent him. You would be hard pressed to find a straighter arrow in your quiver than Chief Harrington."
According to the report, the federal probe has brought fundraising on behalf of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio under intense scrutiny.
Reichberg and another business associate, Jona Rechnitz, who is also being scrutinized by the FBI, served on de Blasio's inaugural committee, with Rechnitz giving and raising contributions for de Blasio's campaign. De Blasio has said that he will return a 2013 donation from Rechnitz and his wife.
Read more at USA Today.