Four NYPD officers in a Queens precinct have been stripped of their badges and guns and placed on modified assignment as investigators probe deeper into allegations of a protection racket among some karaoke clubs, officials said Wednesday.
The officers were assigned to the 109th Precinct, a command which has come under a cloud in recent months after a former lieutenant and a detective were arrested in December on charges they took bribes and committed other offenses in connection with the clubs.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner William Bratton acknowledged that the investigation had spread beyond the two arrested officers and was focusing on possible administrative and criminal charges involving other police officers. However, Bratton disputed news reports that as many as 23 precinct cops had come under a cloud.
Also on Tuesday, police officials said that a number of officers had been transferred out of the 10th Precinct as a result of the investigation, although precise numbers weren’t available.
In December, Lt. Robert Sung, 50, and Det. Yatu Yam, 35, were charged in separate criminal court complaints with bribe receiving and other crimes related to karaoke club owners being tipped off about upcoming drug raids, according to court records. Sung was terminated earlier this year for reasons unrelated to the corruption allegations, his defense attorney, Marvyn Kornberg, said. Yam originally had been suspended without pay but after 30 days was restored to full pay status as required by civil service laws, an NYPD spokesman said.
The original complaints in the criminal case indicated that certain unnamed officers questioned the actions of Sung and Yam in connection with the clubs. But it was unclear if they reported their suspicions to their supervisors or internal affairs investigators. Any failure to do so could leave those officers open to possible disciplinary action.
Kornberg has told Newsday that according to the information he has learned, as many as 23 police officers have been under scrutiny in the case.
The 109th Precinct covers an area of Flushing with a heavy Asian population that has attracted a number of karaoke clubs and bars. In 2006, two officers from the precinct were arrested on federal charges they took small payoffs from the owners of a number of Korean brothels. The officers eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges.