Freebies As Friendship
January 7, 2019
The NYPD needs a new code of ethics, not just for cops but also for its top commanders and commissioners.
That’s the takeaway from the corruption trial that concluded last week with the acquittal of former NYPD Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant and the conviction of a self-proclaimed Hasidic liaison with the department, Jeremy Reichberg.
The trial, which can best be described as “friendship and freebies,” has been an embarrassment for the NYPD. Guilty or not, how can anyone justify Grant’s private-plane junket to Las Vegas with a prostitute hired by Reichberg, the trip paid for by Reichberg’s pal, the feds’ singing canary Jona Rechnitz?
The feds charged that Grant accepted gifts from both Reichberg and Rechnitz; in exchange, the NYPD provided them with favors that included a helicopter flyover for a Reichberg boat party and help in obtaining gun permits. Defense attorneys argued those were merely favors among friends.
And if you naively believe such “friendships” were confined to the 66th Precinct in the heart of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, remember that Rechnitz did some of his business out of the Chief of Department’s office and that a dozen chiefs and inspectors in different parts of the city were forced to retire after the feds alleged some of them had granted favors to corrupt individuals.
To be clear, this is not anything like the Knapp Commission scandal of the 1970s, when payoffs were systematically set up, right to the commissioner’s office. Rather, the Grant/Reichberg trial reveals lower-level corruption under the guise of “friendships.” Still, city rules prohibiting cops from accepting gifts of more than $50 seem simplistic. That’s why we need a new code of ethics.
|Indeed, we only have to observe the behavior of the past four NYPD commissioners to see how the $50 rule was ignored.
In the 1990s, during his first tour as commissioner, Bill Bratton accepted free plane trips to the Dominican Republic and Aspen, Colorado, from Wall Street mogul Henry Kravis. Then-Mayor Rudy Giulinai used those trips as an excuse to fire him because Rudy felt Bratton was stealing the spotlight from him for the city’s crime reductions.
Bratton’s successor, Howard Safir, was comped by the Revlon corporation’s CEO to an all-expense-paid trip for him and his wife to the Oscars. Result: the Conflicts of Interest Board [under some pressure from this column] fined him $7,100, the cost of the trip.
Safir’s successor, Bernie Kerik, accepted $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment from people seeking a city contract. Kerik also received a luxury rental apartment from a realtor. He ended up in federal prison.
Ray Kelly received some $40,000 worth of dues and meals at the Harvard Club paid by the non-profit Police Foundation. When Bratton returned as commissioner under Mayor de Blasio, he demanded the same. Does anyone wonder why chiefs and inspectors saw nothing wrong with accepting freebies as friendship?
“The message has got to come from the top,” says Frank Serpico, who knows something about police corruption. “You can’t say, Do as I say, not as I do.”
Yet neither Commissioner Jim O’Neill nor Mayor de Blasio has addressed those issues. The mayor, who doesn’t want to be reminded that Rechnitz donated $100,000 to his 2013 election campaign, said he had “no reaction” to the trial. “I tuned out, honestly, because it had nothing to do with me,” he told reporters. O’Neill, who takes his cues from the mayor, has said virtually nothing.
A former NYPD deputy inspector was acquitted on all counts in a bribery scheme trial — but his businessman co-defendant didn’t get off so easily.
A jury on Wednesday acquitted former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant of all of the charges he faced. Businessman Jeremy Reichberg was convicted on four of five counts he faced.
Grant and Reichberg were facing trial for honest services fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges.
The scheme allegedly involved “the receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in meals, trips, home renovations, and other benefits in exchange for an array of official NYPD actions, including private police escorts, ticket fixing, and assistance in settling private disputes,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said.
James Grant, a former NYPD deputy inspector, walks into Manhattan federal court for his bribery trial Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.
MANHATTAN, N.Y. — Jimmy Grant, the former NYPD official on trial for bribery, was standing in his house with the new windows and railings when the feds came knocking two years ago to search his residence in connection to the police corruption probe.
The Staten Island resident curiously offered up that he never accepted anything of value from co-defendant Jeremy Reichberg, unless he paid for it, because he knew it would be trouble, authorities allege.
But the high-end home improvements, worth more than $13,000, were just part of the countless bribes Grant allegedly received from Reichberg, a Brooklyn businessman, in turn for official police action during the long-running conspiracy.
“Grant knew he owed, and he delivered,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Ravener during summations Thursday afternoon in Manhattan federal court. “He put his power for sale and Reichberg was his No. 1 customer.”
The now-retired Grant and Reichberg were busted in 2016 during an FBI probe into NYPD corruption. The defendants are accused of fraud and bribery in the scheme that began back in 2008, authorities said.
The government argues that the alleged conspiracy was a simple quid pro quo, this for that, between Reichberg and Grant. They weren’t simply friends helping one another out.
“Friends commit crimes together, with those who don’t give you up when the FBI comes to your door,” Ravener said.
Reichberg and his partner, Jona Rechnitz, the wealthy Mayor Bill de Blasio donor who made a deal with the feds and then testified in the trial, allegedly bought Grant gifts, expensive jewelry, trips and sports tickets. There was the fancy hotel in Rome, the trip to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl with the prostitute on the private plane and the Christmas presents delivered to Grant’s home in 2013.
“I never got free jewelry, travel or tickets,” Grant allegedly told the FBI agents, according to the feds.
“He lied because he was guilty,” Ravener told the jury.
Grant was a “cop on call,” and showed his appreciation by getting Reichberg’s gun license approved, trying to push Rechnitz’s gun application and interfering with certain arrests when Reichberg summoned, said the prosecution.
Ravener said Grant pressured officials in the NYPD’s gun licensing division and even tried to convince an arresting officer to give a Reichberg acquaintance a desk appearance ticket after he was arrested for driving with a suspended license.
“Call me. Call me. I’ll always pick up for you,” Grant said in a wiretap call. “I run around to take care of you.”
“You f—— break my balls about Jona’s f—— application,” the former cop said on the call.
“Jimmy Grant wouldn’t have done that for anybody, but went out of his way for Reichberg,” said Ravener. “He did it for the money, in part.”
The feds allege Reichberg was also responsible for getting Grant bumped up to deputy inspector at the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side. Reichberg and Rechnitz were allegedly bribing Philip Banks, former chief of the department, and former Staten Island cop Michael Harrington. Banks and Harrington, who previously pleaded guilty in the scheme, had some influence on the promotions, the feds argued.
“Hey, we got Jimmy promoted,” Reichberg is heard boasting in a wiretap call with Rechnitz.
When Reichberg realized the feds were coming to his house at 6 a.m., he allegedly ordered his brother in the middle of the night to hide certain evidence for him, like old cellphones and a rolodex of cop contacts. After searching the brother, the feds recovered Grant’s business card and NYPD cards identifying Reichberg and his wife as relatives of Banks, officials allege.
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Ex-Deputy Inspector James (Jimmy) Grant (right) is being tried alongside Brooklyn police buff Jeremy Reichberg (left). (Alec Tabak for New York Daily News)
Juror moved by defense of former cop accused of taking bribes as deliberations begin in NYPD bribery trial
An attorney’s passionate defense of a former NYPD cop accused of accepting bribes on Friday moved a juror to exclaim, “bravo, bravo” hours before deliberations began in the closely watched trial.
The stunning moment came during closing remarks by John Meringolo, who is representing ex-Deputy Inspector James (Jimmy) Grant. The cop is being tried alongside Brooklyn police buff Jeremy Reichberg, who is accused of showering officers, including Grant, with gifts in exchange for official favors.
Meringolo said the government ruined Grant’s career on flimsy evidence.
“Jimmy Grant was a cop’s cop. A cop on the beat. We know a bad cop. That’s a good cop!” Meringolo said.
“You know who’s the most humble guy in the world? That guy is the most humble guy in the world!”
As he concluded, a male juror repeatedly said “bravo.”
Both Meringolo and Reichberg’s attorney, Susan Necheles, argued the cop and the Borough Park businessman were just friends who occasionally helped each other out.
“When you listen to Mr. Reichberg and Mr. Grant talk to each other, there’s joy. There’s love for each other,” Necheles said. “They’re friends. And friends do favors for friends. It’s not a crime. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell asked the jurors not to be distracted by Meringolo’s bombastic remarks. Instead, he told them to match wiretaps and receipts of gifts given to Grant with the testimony of Jona Rechnitz, the crooked Mayor de Blasio donor who is cooperating with the government in the hopes of a light sentence. Rechnitz testified he and Reichberg plotted to bribe cops to gain influence at 1 Police Plaza.
The prosecutor jokingly dismissed Reichberg and Grant’s claims of friendship, noting that wiretaps showed Grant becoming irritated when he didn’t get the gifts he expected.
Bell recalled the theme song of the sitcom “Golden Girls,” which features the lines “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, that wasn’t a ‘Golden Girls’ friendship. That was a bribery friendship,” he said.
Last month, Bell and Meringolo got into a shoving match in the courthouse.
Ex-Deputy Inspector James (Jimmy) Grant accepted a “friendship award” from Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz. He is on trial for accepting bribes. (Court Documents)
Two men accused of bribing NYPD officers handed out awards to their special friends at a 2013 Jets game, testimony revealed Wednesday.
Jona Rechnitz, who has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and is cooperating with the government, said he and Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg, 44, handed out fancy crystal trophies in a private suite at MetLife Stadium during a big game against the New England Patriots.
Among the recipients during the Oct. 20, 2013 “ceremony” were ex-Deputy Inspector James (Jimmy) Grant, former Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and former Deputy Chief David Colon, photos shown in court revealed.
“We gave him this crystal, said something about him and gave him this award,” Rechnitz, 35, said of Grant.
The trophies bearing a clear crystal football read “thank you for your friendship” and “Police Appreciation Day.”
Rechnitz said he covered the cost for the awards, suite and catered food.
Reichberg and Grant, 45, are on trial in Manhattan Federal Court for bribery.
Reichberg is accused of giving gifts like fancy meals, sports tickets and posh vacations to an array of officers.
Rechnitz said he and Reichberg treated Grant to those goodies, as well as a private flight to Las Vegas in 2013 with a prostitute.
The cop-corrupting duo ordered 18 awards, including ones for other cops who did not attend, Rechnitz said.
Some names that appeared on the trophies, like Inspector Tim Beaudette and Chief James Secreto, were of cops Rechnitz testified that he and Reichberg had hoped to cultivate.
But Secreto and Beaudette both rejected their attempts to draw them in, according to Rechnitz.
The name of then-Chief of Department Philip Banks.also appeared on a trophy, but he didn’t show up.
“Banks was annoyed,” Rechnitz said. “He said he wasn’t going to come if other cops were there. He didn’t want to be at those events. He thought it was inappropriate to be there.”
Banks’ brother, however, was at the game. A huge Cowboys fan, Banks’ bro received a trophy with his nickname, Jerry Jones, Rechnitz said.
The feds consider Colon and Banks “unindicted coconspirators.”
Meanwhile, Rechnitz also shed new light on his relationship with Mayor de Blasio.
His testimony further contradicted Hizzoner’s claim that he barely knew Rechnitz or Reichberg.
Evidence displayed in court showed that Rechnitz exchanged emails directly with the mayor about who to pick for the NYPD’s most prominent positions.
Rechnitz and Reichberg lobbied de Blasio aggressively to award the job of police commissioner to Banks in late 2013.
When Banks resigned from the department entirely in Oct. 2014, they pleaded with de Blasio to give Banks his old job back under Commissioner Bill Bratton.
“What can we do for you to refuse Banks’ resignation and get him back in? And for Bratton to see past Phil’s monstrous mistake?” Rechnitz wrote directly to de Blasio.
The mayor even invited Rechnitz to speak with him face to face at South Street Seaport about Banks.
On the stand, Rechnitz referred to the mayor by his first name.
“I asked him if he’d reconsider. He said that Banks had made a mistake,” Rechnitz said. “I remember Bill was fuming that day.”
“He said he had embarrassed the mayor. He had high aspirations for (Banks), was going to make him police commissioner one day and he had really made a big mistake,” Rechnitz recalled de Blasio saying.
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The “Friendship” Scandal
December 24, 2018
No matter how it breaks; no matter if Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant or Hasidic businessman/fixer Jeremy Reichberg is found guilty or innocent — their two-month trial has been a total embarrassment for the NYPD.
Like the public corruption hearings of the Knapp Commissioner in the seventies or the Mollen commission hearings in the 90s, the trial has exposed the NYPD’s underbelly.This time it’s low-level cronyism and possible corruption under the guise of “friendship.”
Such behavior as free meals, free hotel stays and free plane trips — clear violations of the Patrol Guide and Conflict of Interest Board rules that prohibit cops from accepting gifts of more than $50 — has been ignored and even abetted by the actions of the NYPD’s top brass, including its past four police commissioners.
To put this in perspective, these “friendship” crimes do not approach the criminality revealed by the Knapp or Mollen commissions. There is no widespread, systemic payoffs, as revealed by Knapp commission, no riding shotgun for drug dealers as revealed by the Mollen commission.
In Grant’s and Reichberg’s case, the alleged crimes emanated from Philip Banks’s office as Chief of Department, where Reichberg and his thieving partner Jona Rechnitz, a privileged wannabe from Los Angeles, found a home. Introductions were made by Mike Harrington, Banks’s deputy chief, who had had a longtime friendship with Reichberg.
Federal prosecutors maintained that Reichberg and Rechnitz, who has pleaded guilty a host of corruption charges, cultivated high-ranking officers to expedite gun license applications and arrange police escorts and helicopter flyovers to their events. Rechnitz, who was also a $100,000 donor to Bill de Blasio’s 2013 election campaign and who sometimes contacted the mayor while in Banks’s office, described himself as “the money man.” Reichberg, he testified, was “the details” guy.
One of their marks was Jimmy Grant, who, as commander of a number of Brooklyn precincts, had also had a longtime friendship with Reichberg. Grant accepted an all-expense trip to Rome and another to Las Vegas aboard a private plane with a prostitute. Rechnitz paid for both. At Christmas, 2013, Reichberg and Rechnitz drove to Grant’s home on Staten Island and presented him with diamond earrings for his wife and a Ninendo system for his kids.
Rechnitz also befriended Banks. He flew Banks to the Dominican Republic and upgraded his plane ticket to Israel, where Banks posed in full NYPD uniform with Rechnitz and Reichberg at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. Dumb and dumber. What was he thinking?
Banks retired in late 2013, not because of the feds’ investigation, as news reports have stated, but because then police commissioner Bill Bratton planned to promote him to First Deputy, a figurehead positon. The feds charged him as an unindicted co-conspirator, which means they found no evidence of a crime. In fact, Banks was something of a victim. In his naivety, he actually thought Rechnitz was his friend. Banks provided no police favors to him or to Reichberg — other than the use of his reputation and good name.
Lastly, let’s turn to the freebies accepted by past police commissioners. Let’s start with Bratton, who in his first turn as police commissioner accepted free plane trips from Wall Streeter Henry Kravis to the Dominican Republic and Aspen, Colorado. This was no crime. But then Mayor Rudy Giuliani used those trips as an excuse to fire him. The Conflicts of Interest Board investigated but dropped its investigation when Bratton retired.
In 1999, his successor, Howard Safir, was flown to the Oscars in Hollywood and comped for the weekend by the CEO of the Revlon corporation. His successor, Bernie Kerik, accepted $165,000 in free renovations from a company seeking city contracts. He was also given a year’s free rent in a luxury Manhattan apartment by a real estate developer. The Conflicts of Interest Board censured Safir and fined him $7,100, the cost of the Oscar trip. Kerik went to federal prison.
Kerik’s successor, Ray Kelly, was reportedly flown to a Notre Dame football plane on Regis Philbin’s private plane. He also received $40,000 worth of meals, drinks and membership dues at the Harvard Club paid for by the Police Foundation. When Bratton returned as commissioner in 2014, he also had the Police Foundation foot his bill there. Asked by this reporter amid the “friendship” scandal whether his freebies at the Harvard Club set the wrong example for cops, he replied, “Lenny, that’s your issue.”
Is it any wonder, then, that high-ranking officers accepted free plane trips and other gifts from citizens posing as “friends”?
Supposedly, the feds offered Grant a five-year prison term if he pleaded guilty. Unlike Harrington, whose union refused to pay his legal fees, forcing him to plead guilty to what seem like minor patrol violations — such as arranging a helicopter flyover for a Reichberg boat party and arranging a police escort for an Hasidic funeral procession — Grant’s attorney John Meringolo says he is trying this case pro bono.
After his closing argument, one of the jurors clapped and said, for all the courtroom to hear, “Bravo.”
It takes only one for a hung jury.
Copyright © 2018 Leonard Levitt
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A batch of previously undisclosed emails The Post revealed Tuesday offer strong new evidence Mayor Bill de Blasio intentionally evaded public-disclosure laws.
“Always stay in touch, but please do via this email or via cell rather than text,” de Blasio warns corrupt donor Jona Rechnitz in an email from his personal account. This and numerous other messages got left out of 286 pages of exchanges City Hall provided to comply with a court order, following the FOIL request.
City Hall claims it produced all the emails it had “in its possession,” meaning the newly found ones must have been deleted. It also has said it’s not required to keep all emails — though it now says it’s developing a new email-retention policy. That’s one way to handle being caught red-handed, we guess.
Here’s the thing: The latest emails, and others that emerged recently in the NYPD corruption trial, all put the lie to the mayor’s April 2016 claim that he and Rechnitz were “not particularly close.”
De Blasio was denying close links to a felon who admits he helped steer a quarter-million dollars to the mayor’s causes in exchange for political favors.
Yet the “new” emails show a relationship closer than that of many spouses: Over the course of more than two years, they corresponded often, with the mayor frequently calling Rechnitz “friend” and “mensch.”
“Jona, really enjoyed our mtg,” de Blasio writes in one email. In others, he repeatedly thanks him for info he acted on.
In still another that emerged earlier this month, de Blasio signs off, “Love you brother.”Some from Rechnitz show he offered the mayor Knicks tickets and once asked him to stop a top cop from quitting.
It defies belief that City Hall, facing a well-defined request, accidentally failed to provide the most embarrassing stuff — exchanges that highlight the blatant dishonesty of the mayor’s denials.
This was a coverup in blatant defiance of the court’s order.
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