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De Blasio Calls Police Arrested in Corruption Probe 'Disgusting'

By Jeff Mays | June 23, 2016 4:09pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio described a group of high-ranking NYPD officers arrested as part of a federal corruption probe involving two of his donors as
Mayor Bill de Blasio described a group of high-ranking NYPD officers arrested as part of a federal corruption probe involving two of his donors as "disgusting."
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

WEST VILLAGE — Mayor Bill de Blasio described a group of high-ranking NYPD officers arrested as part of a federal corruption probe involving two of his donors as "disgusting."

The mayor made the remarks Thursday, first during his weekly appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show and then with more critical remarks during an unrelated press conference in the West Village.

"It's disgusting. It obviously was illegal, it was wrong and they got caught," the mayor said of the three officers arrested as part of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe.

Deputy Inspector James Grant, the former commanding officer of the 19th and 66th precincts, Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, the former second-in-command in the housing bureau, and Sgt. David Villanueva, who worked in the department's licensing division, were arrested at their homes Monday morning.

 Two Brooklyn businessmen received special access and favors from high-ranking NYPD officers in exchange for bribes.
NYPD Chiefs Charged with Receiving Bribes
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The officers were charged with accepting lavish trips, gifts, cash and sexual favors from a prostitute in exchange for providing police escorts, fixing tickets and even closing down a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel for two Brooklyn businessmen and de Blasio donors, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.

The two men had "cops on call," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

At his press conference, de Blasio dug into the officers again, saying, incredulously, "Anyone who says: 'I didn't know I couldn't take a trip to Vegas' is lying."

Another man, Alex Lichtenstein, has also been arrested for bribing officers to fast track gun permits.

Rechnitz also served as a go-between who helped connect Manhattan-based hedge fund manager Murray Huberfeld and Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook as part of a bribery scheme to steer $20 million in correction union pension money to Platinum Partners hedge fund.

Seabrook, who federal authorities say took $60,000 in cash in a designer bag from Rechnitz, was also arrested and is facing fraud and corruption charges.

Both Rechnitz and Reichberg were on de Blasio's inaugural committee.

Rechnitz, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal authorities, donated nearly $5,000 for the mayor's inauguration committee and also gave $102,000 to the mayor's failed campaign to unseat Republicans in the state Senate.

Reichberg raised $35,000 for Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit de Blasio founded to advance his political agenda.

Multiple federal and state probes are examining whether donors to the mayor's nonprofit received anything in return for their donation and if de Blasio and his team violated election and campaign finance laws by funneling money to upstate senate candidates.

De Blasio has maintained that he and his team did nothing wrong, unlike the officers and donors who were arrested.

“These individuals, I’m shocked that they were senior police officials because they obviously are not following the law in a very egregious way," de Blasio said.

"They’re all going to suffer very real consequences and certainly the individuals who offered the bribes are going to suffer very real consequences."

The mayor also emphasized in multiple appearances Thursday that Bharara said the charges facing the NYPD officers were not connected to him.

"As the U.S. Attorney said very plainly, not only did it start before I was mayor, but he said it had nothing to do with me or the mayor's office," said de Blasio.

The mayor has said he met Reichberg and Rechnitz after it became clear he was going to win the Democratic Primary headed into the general election.

"These two individuals, obviously immoral people engaging in illegal acts, we at the time vetted them when they first appeared on the scene in the general election of 2013, did not find anything wrong," de Blasio said.

The mayor has said he wishes he had never met Rechnitz.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said he "fortunately" had never met the pair at a press conference Thursday.

The mayor said he believes the men did not receive anything for their donations to his campaign.

"I don't know of anything that they tried to do and I certainly know of nothing they succeeded in doing that was inappropriate in terms of City Hall," de Blasio said.

"I think we were very careful with everyone we dealt with. It's night and day in terms of how we in the administration and City Hall dealt with it versus how this handful of police commanders (dealt with it),"

But Bharara also said Monday that the investigation is continuing.