NYPD officials plead not guilty to bribery charges related to de Blasio donors
High-ranking officers are accused of receiving prostitutes, trips and gifts for acting as businessmen's private police force.
Two NYPD officials who are accused of accepting lavish gifts in exchange for giving favors of Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign donors pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.
In Manhattan federal court, Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest-services fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive bribes and the receipt and payment of bribes, the New York Post reported.
In return for allegedly doing favors for de Blasio donors Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, the two NYPD officials were accused of receiving prostitutes, trips and gifts in return, the New York Daily News reported. Rechnitz, who was identified by sources, was reported to have pleaded guilty and be cooperating with authorities.
The two NYPD officials acted as “a private police force for [Reichberg and Rechnitz] and their friends,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was quoted from the indictment by the Post.
Reichberg, a Borough Park businessman, faces up to 55 years in prison after pleading not guilty to the charges, the Post added.
Harrington and Grant were arrested on June 20 along with Sgt. David Villanueva in connection with the corruption accusations that they received more than $100,000 worth of perks, the Daily News reported.
The officers now face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the charges, according to the Post.
“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 job,” Bharara was quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
Villanueva has been suspended, and Grant and Harrington were put on modified duty after they became involved in the investigation earlier this year, but the twosome later submitted their retirement papers, NBC4 reported. They will receive their retirement benefits.
Other officers involved in the investigation included Michael Malici, who has since been fired, and Michael Ameri, who killed himself after being questioned about the corruption allegations, NBC4 added.
The expanding corruption investigation into the dealings of New York officials also led to the recent indictment of Correction Union head Norman Seabrook, who faces similar charges in court last Thursday, the Daily News added.
“The case shows whether you’re a cop or a chief, if you break the law you will be handled the same way,” Police Commissioner William J. Bratton was quoted at a June news conference by the New York Times.