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Top-Ranking NYPD Officers Stripped of Guns and Badges in Corruption Probe

By  Trevor Kapp and Murray Weiss | April 7, 2016 1:57pm 

 NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the department would investigate testimony made during the Peter Liang trial that he and his partner had not been given proper CPR training, Feb. 23, 2016.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the department would investigate testimony made during the Peter Liang trial that he and his partner had not been given proper CPR training, Feb. 23, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — Two high-ranking NYPD officers were stripped of their guns and badges and two others were transferred as a result of a long-running federal probe into NYPD corruption involving two wealthy Brooklyn businessmen with close ties to Mayor de Blasio.

In a blockbuster move, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Thursday said Deputy Inspector James Grant, the commanding officer of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side, had been placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun and badge, as was Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, who was the No. 2 in the NYPD's citywide housing bureau.

Deputy Chief David Colon, the Commanding Officer of the department's Brooklyn Housing Bureau and Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez, who was the executive officer of Brooklyn South command, were transferred, Bratton said.

The allegations include that the officers accepted cash, international trips and other gifts from the businessmen in exchange for favors from police, including NYPD escorts to the airport.

“This is not a particularly good day for the department,” Bratton said during a Thursday morning press conference at NYPD headquarters.

"I think the actions are appropriate. We move forward administratively with our processes here. But ... any time we’re seeking to discipline officers for infractions, whether administrative or criminal, it’s not a good day,” he added, saying he met with Assistant FBI Director Diego Rodriguez Thursday morning.

The commissioner said that earlier this year he had the department's legal experts meet with the NYPD's hierarchy to explain the "conflict of interest" rules and that he will now expand that outreach to drive home the guidelines that supervisors as well as the rank-and-file must follow.

Deputy Commissioner Larry Byrne added, "We don’t believe based on what we know so far that this is deep, systemic corruption throughout the department as opposed to perhaps bad judgment of a small group of people who are relatively senior, but we’re going to go wherever the investigation takes us.”

The supervisors are the highest ranking officers to face discipline so far as part of a burgeoning scandal involving allegations of NYPD officials who accepted gifts from two Brooklyn businessmen with close ties to Mayor de Blasio — Jeremy Reichberg, the owner of a venture capital firm, and Jona Rechnitz, an Upper West Side real estate developer, sources said.

The two men — who are known "police buffs" — allegedly tried to rub elbows with NYPD supervisors in order to burnish their image in their community, sources said. They also allegedly lavished more than a dozen officers with free food, cash or free trips to far flung destinations such as China and Israel — in possible violation of departmental and criminal laws.

James Grant

NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant, former Commanding Officer of the 19th Precinct. Credit: DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

Investigators are looking into allegations that Grant accepted cash from one of the businessmen, Jeremy Reichberg, while Grant was the commanding officer of the 66th Precinct in Borough Park. Sources said investigators are also checking into allegations that Grant escorted Reichberg from the airport several times when Reichberg picked up diamonds overseas.

Bratton would not discuss the details of the alleged wrongdoing but said Thursday that the investigation was initiated in 2013 by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau and was joined in early 2014 by the FBI, which was also looking into allegations surrounding then-Chief of Department Philip Banks.

Both Reichberg and Rechnitz were part of Mayor de Blasio’s inaugural committee.

The mayor has said publicly that he will wait for the outcome of the federal probe before deciding whether to to return their campaign donations to him. The men have not contributed since he was elected, the mayor said.

“Neither of them have contributed to my re-election campaign," de Blasio said Wednesday. "While this investigation is going on, we will, of course, not accept any donations. Like with any American citizen, they have a right to the whole process, due process. There’s an investigation going on, we’ll see what that investigation yields. But I have no intention of accepting any donations from them while there’s an investigation underway.”

The wide-ranging federal investigation has already led to the NYPD placing a detective from Borough Park's 66th Precinct on modified duty after he invoked his Fifth Amendment when approached by investigators from the FBI and Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, sources said.

The probe has also extended to longtime Banks friend and boss of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, Norman Seabrook, sources said.

Seabrook allegedly also had dealings with Reichberg and Rechnitz and is accused by a former union board member of steering $10 million into an investment firm without board permission.

Banks’ lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, says his client is innocent of any wrongdoing and did not “intentionally” violate any regulations.

Seabrook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.