4 NYPD officials transferred as part of corruption probe

Thursday, April 7, 2016
NYPD shakeup amid corruption probe
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N.J. Burkett reports 4 NYPD officials have been reassigned amid a corruption investigation.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The NYPD has put on modified assignment and transferred four top officials in connection with an investigation into whether officers accepted free trips and other perks from Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish communities.

Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant have been modified and transferred. Deputy Chief David Colon and Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez were transferred.

"This is not a particularly good day for the department," Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

The commissioner acknowledged that the 66th Precinct investigation is now focused on at least four NYPD commanders as well as others who have left the department.

Sources say among them is former Chief of Department Philip Banks.

At issue is police-community relations in Borough Park. The investigation began in 2013, looking at the relationships among two Brooklyn businessmen and several high-ranking NYPD officials.

Specifically, whether favors or other considerations were offered in exchange for trips, gifts or cash.

Sources say up to two dozen officers have been interviewed regarding possible violations of department policy, city conflict of interest rules, or even federal criminal law, although officials do not believe the suspected conduct was widespread.

"We don't believe, based on what we know so far, that this is deep, systemic corruption throughout the department as opposed to perhaps bad judgment of a small group of people who are relatively senior," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Larry Byrne.

Sources say Norman Seabrook, longtime correction union president, is also under investigation. All have denied any wrongdoing.

No officers have been charged criminally, but law enforcement officials say the issue came up as investigators probe Orthodox Jewish businessmen with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York State criminal laws make it a crime for a police officer to accept anything of value as a quid-pro-quo or gratuity.

Investigators will have to determine when a gift from a close friend crosses that line, and whether the acceptance of the gift would be criminal or a departmental violation.

Federal authorities are probing three Orthodox Jewish men for fraud and money laundering. Two of them, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, were involved in a liquor deal that went bad, prompting the investigation.

While probing the men, federal authorities picked up on a wiretap that one of the men, Reichberg, had dealings with high ranking NYPD officers. He is described as a police buff.

A number of the NYPD commanders have been brought before a federal grand jury looking into the Orthodox Jewish men's actions. They are described to have "fully cooperated" and have been informed they are not the targets or subject of the investigation.

One NYPD officer who was called before the grand jury refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. That raised the interest of Internal Affairs, and Det. Michael Milici, the 66th Precinct's community affairs detective, was placed on modified duty.