Three New York police officials arrested on bribery charges

Businessman Jeremy Reichberg (C) departs Federal Court in Manhattan after a hearing in New York, U.S., June 20, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

Two senior New York police officials were arrested Monday and charged with bribery on accusations they received meals, trips and other luxury perks in exchange for providing special services to wealthy businessmen, prosecutors said.

Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg, a major contributor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, was also arrested and charged for allegedly receiving the services such as police escorts, and assistance settling private disputes in exchange for the lavish gifts, according to a news release from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

An associate of Reichberg, identified only as CW-1, had pleaded guilty to charges and was cooperating, the release 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," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Deputy chief Michael Harrington, 50, and deputy inspector James Grant, 43, provided services to Reichberg and CW-1 including police escorts, investigating private matters, and VIP access to parades and other New York events.

Grant also gave Reichberg and CW-1 cards that enabled them and their associates to get out of traffic tickets when pulled over by police. Grant also helped Reichberg get a gun license.

The scheme lasted between 2012 and 2015, prosecutors said.

In exchange, Grant received benefits including a trip to the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, with the private jet alone costing $57,000 (S$76,519). He also received a luxury hotel stay in Rome, work on his home worth approximately $12,000 and jewelry.

Harrington received private security work worth tens of thousands of dollars, hotel rooms in Chicago worth more than $6,000 and thousands of dollars in dinners.

A third New York police official, gun licensing division supervisor Sergeant David Villaneuva, was arrested Monday on accusations that he accepted cash and gifts from businessman Alex Lichtenstein, who charged clients thousands of dollars for expedited gun licenses.

Villaneuva and his subordinate Officer Richard Ochetal would skip over required checks of applicants and ignore problems such as prior arrests or domestic violence allegations in approving gun licenses, prosecutors said.

In addition to cash, Villaneuva and Ochetal also received limo rides, liquor and a wine tour from the businessman.

Ochetal had pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and was cooperating with investigators.

New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said the misconduct was uncovered after three years of investigations.

"This investigation is not over and we will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to go where the facts of these cases lead us," he said.

If convicted, Grant, Harrington and Reichberg face up to 20 years in prison.

Villaneuva and Ochetal could face up to 15 years, while Lichtenstein faces a maximum of 25 years.