NEW YORK (JTA) — Brooklyn Jewish businessman Jeremy Reichberg and three high-ranking New York police officers have been arrested in a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation involving New York City officials and potential improprieties in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political fundraising campaigns.
Two of the officers arrested Monday are alleged to have accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of bribes from Reichberg, 42, who had been at the center of the larger ongoing probe along with Jona Rechnitz, a fellow businessman and de Blasio fundraiser.
In exchange for the alleged bribes, Reichberg is accused of receiving numerous official New York Police Department services. A third officer allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for expediting gun licenses.
Rechnitz, who also has been charged with bribing police officers, pleaded guilty earlier this year and is believed to be cooperating with the investigation.
In one instance, according to court papers cited by CBS News New York, Reichberg and an unidentified businessman allegedly donned elf hats on Christmas in 2013 as they delivered lavish gifts to the Staten Island home of a deputy inspector, James Grant, who was one of the three officers arrested Monday. Grant allegedly was caught on a recorded telephone call a year later complaining that his two "elves" did not come for Christmas that year.
Also Monday, the court made public the guilty plea of Officer Richard Ochetal of the NYPD’s gun licensing division for accepting bribes in exchange for expediting gun licenses.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced in a news release Monday that Grant, Reichberg and Deputy Chief Michael Harrington were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud for a bribery scheme involving tens of thousands of dollars in meals, trips, home renovations and other benefits. According to the complaint, bribes from Reichberg included Super Bowl tickets, expensive trips and even prostitutes.
Sgt. David Villanueva, the third police officer arrested Monday, was charged in Manhattan federal court with accepting cash bribes to expedite and approve gun licenses for Alex Lichtenstein, a member of a Shomrim Jewish volunteer safety patrol. Lichtenstein was charged in April.
Susan Necheles, Reichberg's lawyer, said in an email to CBS News that her client “did not commit a crime” and that his “only mistake” was trusting a government cooperator "who is desperately trying to get others in trouble in order to curry favor with prosecutors and save his own skin."
Monday’s arrests came two weeks after federal prosecutors charged Norman Seabrook, president of the city’s correction officers union, and Murray Huberfeld, a hedge fund financier who is Jewish, as part of the same investigation.