Monday, April 11, 2016

FBI probe finds NYPD traded services for Super Bowl tickets, luxe trips

 Rechnitz, Banks & Reichberg
 UPDATE: NY Times   Jona S. Rechnitz, the scion of a wealthy Los Angeles family, came to New York City about a decade ago to make his mark in real estate and philanthropy. A brash young man eager to fund philanthropic causes, he cultivated connections with the Police Department — posing with top officials, and once arranging for police bagpipes at a party — and became a fixture at fund-raising events for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Jeremiah Reichberg came from the more cloistered world of Borough Park, Brooklyn, an Orthodox Jewish enclave where he was a familiar presence, even if his private life and business dealings were not well known. He ran a consulting firm, and hosted Mr. de Blasio to great fanfare at his home in 2014 for a fund-raising event.

Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg became close, appearing together at public and private events, and serving on Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration committee — an honor bestowed on the famous, like the writer Junot Díaz and the actor Steve Buscemi, and on lavish givers. In recent weeks, they have become the fulcrum of a sprawling federal corruption investigation into the mayor’s fund-raising activities and the actions of police commanders.

The federal inquiry, which began in 2013, has laid bare the city’s nexus of political influence and campaign donations, dormant for a decade during the administration of the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as the world of those men, like Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg, who sidle up to police officials as a kind of informal currency. The two men — neither of whom has been charged with a crime — appeared to take great pride in the closeness with which they spoke to senior commanders, including Philip Banks III, formerly the third-highest ranking chief, who has come under scrutiny as part of the federal inquiry.

So far, four top police officials have been censured, and the inquiry has derailed what had been a high point for the mayor after the passage of his affordable housing plan last month.

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio faced repeated questions over his connections to Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg and what they might have gained from funneling tens of thousands of dollars into the mayor’s advocacy efforts and campaign coffers. He said it would be the last time he answered questions about the men. [...]

NY Post  The gifts were lavish — Super Bowl tickets and vacations to China and London.

The favors were troubling — using NYPD cops to provide security for private cash and jewelry deliveries and police escorts for funerals and airport trips to transfer bodies to Israel.

New details emerged Tuesday in the FBI’s corruption investigation into the police department, including how deep-pocketed businessmen who were the original targets of the probe sought out high-ranking members who they knew could “get things done for them,” sources told The Post.

“They don’t go to police officers or detectives. They’re too far down the food chain,’’ a law enforcement source said of the politically connected businessmen.

“They go straight to the top: the [commanding officer], lieutenants and other top officials at the precinct,” the source added. “They get things done for them. All they need to do is make a call.”

The favors ranged from getting police escorts for their own business deliveries, to crowd control during Hasidic weddings, and even receiving special security when Torahs are moved, according to sources. [...]

The suspected corruption surfaced during a separate financial investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio cronies Jona Rechnitz, an Upper West Side real estate powerhouse, and Jeremy Reichberg, a prominent figure in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the sources said.

Wiretaps on the two men raised red flags because there were so many phone calls to and from cops, sources said.

“When it’s replayed, it might not sound good,’’ a source said of the wiretaps, explaining that they involve one of the businessmen making requests and the cops saying they’ll take care of it, although it’s unclear if any criminal conduct occurred.[...]

Ben Brafman, Banks’ lawyer, said 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.”[...]

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