Major de Blasio donor brags about closeness with mayor, says he expected influence for funds at Seabrook trial
One of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest donors took the witness stand Thursday to boast about his closeness to the mayor and make clear he had expected “lots of access” to Hizzoner.
The embarrassing testimony came from Jona Rechnitz, who’s pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is the star witness in the trial of disgraced jail union boss Norman Seabrook.
“I was giving money `to the Mayor of New York in exchange for favors,” he said to describe one element of the criminal offense to which he pleaded guilty.
Rechnitz described a meeting he and another donor, Jeremy Reichberg, had with de Blasio’s key fund-raiser, Ross Offinger.
“We expect a lot of access and influence,” Rechnitz said the group told Offinger. “We’re going to become significant contributors.
He said Offinger, a longtime de Blasio aide and the chief rainmaker for the mayor’s non-profit, Campaign for One New York, replied, “Okay. How much do you think you guys can get together?”
Rechnitz, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the hopes of winning lighter jail time, raised $41,000 for the mayor before his 2013 election, donated $50,000 to Campaign for One New York, and wrote a $102,300 check as part of the mayor’s 2014 failed effort to flip the state Senate to Democratic control.
Offinger, Rechnitz testified, returned with his hand out after de Blasio was elected mayor.
“He would call when they needed money,” he said. In return, “I would call whenever I had an issue.”
“I would be a ‘yes’ man,” he added. “I always gave money.”
In court he revealed that de Blasio — who has strained to distance himself from Rechnitz — even came to his office before the election.
The then-candidate “told me to call if there’s anything I need. Always be in touch.”
Rechnitz was one of several donors who got tremendous access to the mayor. De Blasio routinely ordered his minions to intervene on donors’ behalf.
Emails show de Blasio responding, “I’m all ears” when Rechnitz suggested a candidate for buildings commissioner, and City Hall intervened when he was cited for running an illegal hotel.
In response late Thursday, de Blasio’s press secretary, Eric Phillips, mocked the credibility of the mayor’s major donor.
“These are nothing but re-heated, re-packaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels,” he said. “The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”
Rechnitz was cooperating with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s probe of de Blasio that result in no charges but the finding that the mayor had intervened on behalf of big donors.
Rechnitz also admitted he “straw donors” — an illegal scheme to avoid laws limiting how much contributors can give to politicians.
The law prohibits donors from masking their identity by giving to campaigns through other donors. Rechnitz said he did just that by having people in his office write checks for which he would reimburse them.
He described Offinger as a kind of bag man, dropping by his office to pick up checks.
“I told him to hold on and I’d walk out, get a few checks from people and then bring them in,” he said.
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How Involved was the Port Authority Police Department with the Closure of the Lincoln Tunnel?
We are posting the following articles related to recent stories regarding the closure of the Lincoln Tunnel orchestrated by Jeremy Reichberg for or on behalf of Lev Leviev, diamond magnate, Africal-Israel principal, current or former owner of 23 Wall Street and the Apthorp building and one-time employer of Jona Rechnitz. As we have mentioned, we are not so sure that umbilical chord has actually been cut.
These are being provided as a consortium of additional sources of information.
In our opinion, the Port Authority Police Department’s involvement with Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg runs far deeper than either currently reported or as yet understood.
ABC News – Jun 21, 2016
New York’s governor demanded an investigation Tuesday into allegations that a lane in one of the traffic-clogged tunnels connecting Manhattan to New Jersey was shut down as a special favor to a politically connected businessman accused of paying bribes …
Jerusalem Post Israel News – Jun 22, 2016
Did Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev have the NYPD close a lane for him in New York’s Lincoln tunnel? According the the New York Post, that is exactly what federal authorities are investigating as part of a larger probe into corruption in the NYPD …
New York Daily News – Jun 21, 2016
Business fat cat Jeremy Reichberg allegedly used cops to close a lane at the Lincoln Tunnel. Now Gov. Cuomo wants an investigation into the lane closure. (James Keivom/New York Daily News). BY Dan Rivoli. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Tuesday, June 21 …
New York Post – Jun 21, 2016
Israeli diamond dealer Lev Leviev was the mysterious businessman hustled through the shut-down Lincoln Tunnel on behalf of a Bill de Blasio fundraiser. Photo: AP (left), Getty Images. More On: nypd corruption scandal · Norman Seabrook’s corruption …
DNAinfo – Jun 22, 2016
An NYPD deputy chief reportedly arranged an escort through the Lincoln Tunnel for an international billionaire visiting the city. View Full Caption. DNAinfo/Paul Lomax. MANHATTAN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State and Port Authority’s …
Jewish Business News – Jun 22, 2016
NYPD cops shut down to the general public a lane of traffic entering the Lincoln Tunnel to escort an Israeli billionaire, Lev Leviev, known as the “King of Diamonds”, The New York Post reports. This was done at the behest of a major fundraiser of New …
The Real Deal Magazine – Jun 22, 2016
That was basically the message sent when part of the Lincoln Tunnel was shut down to escort Lev Leviev chairman of the international real estate firm Africa Israel, the New York Post reported. It’s unclear when the shutdown occurred. Federal …
BizPac Review – Jun 21, 2016
It’s not how big the political scandal is — it’s the party affiliation of the person who allegedly created the scandal. The truth of that statement was brought home in spades this week when police shut down to the general public a lane of traffic …
NY Governor Cuomo Sends Letter to Port Authority Officials Regarding Reported Lane Closure in the Lincoln Tunnel
Yeshiva World News – Jun 21, 2016
cuom Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today sent a letter to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman John Degnan, Vice Chairman Steven Cohen and Executive Director Patrick Foye regarding a reported lane closure in the Lincoln Tunnel. A copy of …
Jona Rechnitz and JSR Capital LLC
LostMessiah, April 5, 2016
Jona Reschnitz is known in former news articles, primarily from 2013 for his JSR Capital LLC. JSR is a Manhattan-based real estate firm he heads, which in 2013 acquired 238 Madison Avenue, between 37th and 38th streets for the purpose of building what, at the time, was to be new condominiums or a hotel. The Seller of the site was Nissan Perla, an international diamond magnate. The JSR website gives very little information about its principals, except that it was founded in 2010. The website also only gives basic information regarding JSR’s business endeavors. The last update of that site was in 2013.
In November of 2013, it was reported that Jona Rechnitz of JSR Capital LLC was one of the members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Inaugural Committee. Included in that article were not only some notable actors and actresses, a number of law firms but also a number of questionable figures in the Jewish and ultra-Orthodox community, including Jona Rechnitz, allegedly connected to the below-referenced investigation. In addition to Jona Rechnitz, the other person mentioned below, Jeremy Reichberg was also a member of the Inaugural Committee.
In 2014, it was reported that Jona Rechnitz won $25,000 on a $500 bet prediction that the first scoring play of the 2014 Super Bowl game would be a Seattle safety. At the time, the money was to be given to the Simon Wiesenthal Center as a donation. According to an article in TMZ Sports, Rechnitz’s win in 2014 was his second in 2 weeks.
In 2014, it was reported in the Forward the Rechnitz won $15,000 for wagering that the Seattle Seakhaws would score the first points on a safety. The bet placed was for $300.00. In that article, it was mentioned that he might have placed a second bet and that they were not sure what he was going to do with the $15,000.00
In 2012, it was reported that Rechnitz won when he “hit the JACKPOT…, betting $1,000 on the Giants to score the first points in the big game with a safety. The odds were 50 to 1. There again, he apparently donated the money to charity.
On April 5, 2015, it was reported in multiple reports that Reschnitz is being tied to an alleged gifts for favors scheme. It should be noted Jeremy Reichberg also listed as a member of the Inaugural Committee for Mayor de Blasio in 2013, is also tied to the below investigation.
from the New York Post, April 5, 2016
The FBI is investigating suspected NYPD corruption focusing on the relationship between two politically connected businessmen and a slew of officers throughout the ranks, multiple sources told The Post on Monday.
The feds are grilling about 20 cops — including three deputy chiefs and the head of the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct — over gifts and foreign trips that the businessmen may have doled out to them in exchange for favors, law-enforcement sources said.
A grand jury also has been convened, sources said.
The investigation began with an unrelated deal-gone-awry involving the two businessmen — Mayor de Blasio buddies Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, well-placed sources said.
They gave a large sum of money to a third party who was supposed to buy discounted liquor for them to sell at a profit, but investors lost their money and the feds opened a fraud probe, sources said.
Wiretaps on the two businessmen’s phones revealed relationships with several NYPD cops — and the probe soon led the feds to then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks and his close pal, Corrections union president Norman Seabrook, sources said.
Reichberg, who lives in Borough Park, is a police buff known for his NYPD connections, while Rechnitz is a deep-pocketed de Blasio donor from the Upper West Side, sources said.
The businessmen became close friends with Banks and Seabrook, with the foursome traveling together to the Caribbean and to Israel in 2014.
Rechnitz picked up both men’s tab for the Caribbean jaunt, sources said. He also paid Seabrook’s airfare and hotel bills in Israel, while Banks paid for the flight but allowed Rechnitz to pick up his lodging tab, sources said.
Although he was on his personal time, Banks wore his NYPD uniform during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and when he returned to New York, shared what he had learned with authorities here, sources said.
As a thank-you gift for all Rechnitz had done, Banks and Seabrook bought him a pricey backgammon set made of ancient wood.
“[We] spent $5,000 on the backgammon set — custom-made from Israel — so that nobody could say they bought me the [plane] ticket,’’ Seabrook told The Post Monday.
“There is no quid pro quo. There’s nothing [the FBI] could say Norman did wrong,’’ he added, referring to himself.
Banks could not be reached for comment.
Rechnitz also paid for at least part of other cops’ trips to places such as London, Rome, Las Vegas and the Caribbean, sources said.
Several sources said those being questioned as part of the probe include Deputy Inspector James Grant, head of the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct; Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez; and Deputy Housing Chief Michael Harrington. Harrington worked for Banks before the chief of department retired.
“Most of the bosses questioned are not targets,’’ a law-enforcement source claimed.
Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter said, “A number of my members have been interviewed by federal investigators. All of them fully cooperated and were told they were not the targets or subject of the investigation.’’
One of the officers who has already testified before the grand jury is veteran NYPD Community Affairs Officer Michael Milici, sources said. The detective pleaded the Fifth and was placed on modified duty, sources said.
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