The FBI is investigating top NYPD officials and the head of the city's correction officers unions over allegations that they accepted meals, Super Bowl tickets, and international trips from two businessmen in exchange for providing police details for weddings, jewelry deliveries, and funerals, among other favors.
The New York Post reports that federal investigators had zeroed in on Upper West Side real estate developer Jona Rechnitz, and Jeremy Reichberg, a Borough Park, Brooklyn businessman, both prominent allies of Mayor Bill de Blasio, for financial reasons, but in turn found that the two were making a flurry of phone calls to police. As many as 20 high-ranking cops, including three deputy inspectors, are being questioned, the tabloid reported.
Former NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks and jailer union head Norman Seabrook have stood out in reporting on the investigation as prominent cronies of the businessmen. Among the perks identified by the Post and the Daily News are Banks's golf trips to the Dominican Republic with the businessmen, and the foursome's trip to Israel, for which the Post wrote that Rechnitz paid Seabrook's airfare and hotel rooms.
Seabrook told the Post that he and Banks bought Rechnitz a fancy backgammon set, so the whole thing is aboveboard.
"[We] spent $5,000 on the backgammon set — custom-made from Israel — so that nobody could say they bought me the [plane] ticket,’’ he said. "There is no quid pro quo. There’s nothing [the FBI] could say Norman did wrong."
Other destinations Rechnitz purportedly flew cops to include London, Rome, and Las Vegas.
In return, officers may have provided special security for business deliveries, family functions, and even Torah transportation (both businessmen are Orthodox Jews).
The FBI is also investigating Seabrook for whether or not he got rich off of his union, the Correction Officer's Benevolent Association, through illicit financial transactions. That investigation has also focused on Banks, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Holocaust research group supported by Rechnitz, and the question of whether Seabrook used Rechnitz's JSR Capital LLC to invest union money without board approval.
One detective has been placed on modified duty for pleading the Fifth during a grand jury convened in relation to the latest investigation.
Banks declined to comment when contacted by a New York Times reporter. His lawyer, Ben Brafma, told reporters Tuesday, "It does not appear that Mr. Banks, either while employed by the New York City Police Department or after he retired, was involved in any intentional criminal conduct."
Rechnitz told the Post, "I have done nothing wrong and have not engaged in any inappropriate behavior with anyone connected to the NYPD. Beyond that, I don’t have any comment." Reichberg has not commented on the investigation.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said that the NYPD is cooperating with the investigation, but that he can't say more about it.
As for Rechnitz and Reichberg's ties to de Blasio, here's the Times:
Mr. Rechnitz raised nearly $45,000 in donations for Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, and he and his wife each gave the maximum amount allowed, $4,950. Mr. Rechnitz owns a real estate investment, development and management company called JSR Capital L.L.C., which owns several buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including 23 Wall Street, at the corner of Broad Street, according to the company’s website.
A note: The JSR website actually describes the company as the manager and representative for the owners of 23 Wall Street. The building at the corner of Broad Street was once the commercial piece of a predominately residential development controlled by Lev Leviev, a billionaire real estate developer and diamond mogul who had to pay out undisclosed millions to condo buyers there after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found his company cut corners on construction, falsified contractor documents, improperly collected tax breaks, and took off with money meant for repairs to it and two other similarly falling-apart luxury residential buildings.
The Times again:
Mr. Reichberg is associated with a company called JR Consultants. In May 2014, he hosted an event at his home for the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit group created by advisers to the mayor, a Democrat, to push Mr. de Blasio’s political agenda. The group, which was criticized by government watchdog groups for being a “shadow government” of lobbyists and businesses with interests before City Hall, began the process of shutting down last month.
Here's de Blasio paying a visit to Reichberg's house in Borough Park for a fundraiser: