A federal investigation into possible payments to high-ranking NYPD officials by a pair of Brooklyn businessmen is expected to result in Commissioner William Bratton taking action against any cops involved, police officials said Wednesday.
For several months, the FBI and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara have been looking into the relationship between the businessmen and certain NYPD brass, said law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.
The probe is focusing on allegations that assistant chiefs of police and inspectors received Super Bowl tickets and vacations, according to the officials and various reports.
No one has been charged in the investigation but, on Tuesday, Bratton indicated that one detective had been placed on modified assignment, which means he had been stripped of his badge and gun and placed on desk duty.
Sources familiar with some aspects of the investigation said the activities of businessman Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg are being examined. Both men are prominent in the Orthodox community and major supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Rechnitz and Reichberg did not return calls seeking comment.
At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, de Blasio indicated that he might return campaign contributions after the inquiry’s findings are known.
A person questioned by prosecutors and FBI agents several months ago said investigators were interested in the relationship between former chief of department Phil Banks and Norman Seabrook, head of the city correction officers union.
Both have traveled to Israel with the businessmen and are believed to have paid for some of their own travel expenses. However, in a lawsuit filed last year against Seabrook in state court, union member William Valentin alleged the union made a $5 million investment to a financially troubled hedge fund. Valentin’s suit alleged hedge fund officials paid for two of Seabrook Israel trips.
The court papers do not identify the hedge fund.
Banks did nothing wrong while he was with the NYPD or after he retired in late 2014, his attorney, Benjamin Brafman said Wednesday.
Seabrook has declined to comment.
Valentin told Newsday on Tuesday he had full faith federal investigators would look into his allegations.
Roy Richter, head of the captain’s union, said in a statement that federal investigators interviewed a number of his members about the actions of a Brooklyn businessman. Investigators told the members they were neither targets nor subjects of the investigation, Richter said.
A high-ranking NYPD official said Wednesday there were indications the investigation would determine that the NYPD officials didn’t violate any criminal laws but may have run afoul of departmental rules on gifts. Those rules bar the acceptance of gifts, aside from nominal tokens of appreciation like plaques and pens, in return for performing police duties.
New York State criminal laws make it a crime for a police officer to accept anything of value as a quid-pro-quo or gratuity. In some cases, it is difficult to determine when a gift from a close friend would cross the line, the NYPD official said, adding that items like Super Bowl tickets posed problems.
“If any chief accepted Super Bowl tickets, he should be fired,” said the official, who like most people interviewed for this story didn’t want to be identified.
For the moment, Bratton is not planning any action to revise or strengthen police rules against accepting gifts, the official said.