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Feds: LI police chief texted about jewelry, meals, trips

Government exhibit in NYPD corruption case shows hundreds of text messages between Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister and Jeremy Reichberg, a defendant in the bribery conspiracy trial in a federal court in Manhattan.

Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister is one

Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister is one of several uncharged police officials in an ongoing NYPD corruption trial who federal prosecutors allege provided favors in exchange for gifts. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister discussed intervening in arrests and repeatedly asked alleged fixer Jeremy Reichberg for help getting items ranging from an emerald pendant to a TV and Billy Joel tickets, according to text messages introduced last week at the NYPD corruption trial in a federal court in Manhattan. 

McAllister, an NYPD inspector before becoming Floral Park chief in 2010, is not charged, but prosecutors have alleged he is one of several uncharged police officials who provided favors in return for gifts — including jewelry, meals and travel — from Reichberg and crony Jona Rechnitz, a government witness.

One series of texts from Oct. 28, 2015, involves discussion of McAllister’s previously expressed interest in a Breitling or Omega watch and, prosecutors say, Reichberg’s effort to have McAllister use his New York police contacts to help with a harassment arrest involving the owner of a Brooklyn carpet business.

Their exchange began at 5:35 p.m. when McAllister wrote, “Who are you looking to get out on Queens?” Reichberg texted the businessman's name, adding, "The floor guy from Brooklyn.” McAllister answered, “What kind of floors? Did we make any headway on watch?”

A few minutes later, Reichberg said, “My guy is trying to locate one for a good price, he asked if we can wait for the watch show.” McAllister’s response: “When is that? OK, guy will make night court and be out tonight. Let’s get together soon.”

Reichberg and former NYPD Deputy Insp. James Grant have been on trial for nearly eight weeks in the bribery conspiracy trial. Former Deputy Chief Michael Harrington previously pleaded guilty, and the evidence has touched on Reichberg's links to several other police officials, including former NYPD Chief Phil Banks and McAllister.

Star prosecution witness Rechnitz, a real estate investor, has testified he and partner Reichberg, of Borough Park, gave McAllister meals and gifts, including a diamond ring, a Florida plane trip and a $25,000 donation to the NYPD football team, in return for help. He tied McAllister to assistance such as a Lincoln Tunnel escort for Rechnitz’s visiting boss and NYPD intervention with protesters at a jewelry store, as well as Floral Park chaplaincies and parking placards.

Despite the allegations, Floral Park officials have supported McAllister, and his $245,000 annual contract was renewed for two years in April.

McAllister has denounced Rechnitz as a "liar," and his lawyer Joel Weiss said the chief received no free items from Reichberg or Rechnitz and did not act improperly with regard to the carpet business owner.

"As with everything else, Steve McAllister did nothing wrong," Weiss said Saturday. "The U.S. attorney has been far from shy about bringing charges in this investigation. Appropriately, they have charged Steve with nothing and that speaks volumes."

Weiss and lawyers for Reichberg and the Brooklyn businessman who had been arrested, named Eddie Sankari, also said he had received no special treatment and all charges against him were eventually dismissed. Sankari's attorney, Bettina Schein, said he had been falsely accused by an ex-employee with an "ax to grind."

In the hundreds of texts sent over two years, McAllister asked for help from Reichberg acquiring items that include the Billy Joel tickets, an Atlantic City visit and tickets to a Luke Bryan concert, and a Super Bowl visit — he texted an expletive when told that couldn't happen — as well as an engagement ring for a friend, emerald earrings or a pendant for his wife, and a watch and TV.

Some of the texts indicate McAllister is just seeking Reichberg's help getting a good price, and they don't say he got any of the items for free. Weiss said he didn't.

Prosecutors last week also called NYPD Det. Iballys Starling, whose Oct. 28, 2015, arrest of Sankari triggered the texts between Reichberg and McAllister. The detective said Sankari was charged with aggravated harassment based on a complaint from an ex-employee in a dispute with him.

“Mr. Sankari was threatening to kill his family, including his newborn baby,” she testified.

Starling said that when she brought Sankari back to her station house, she got a call from her commanding officer asking if she could issue a Desk Appearance Ticket, which would result in quick release, instead of full arrest processing that could require him to go to court and delay his release.

“He said he was getting phone calls about this guy,” she recalled. “He said he was getting calls from other chiefs.” She told her commander, falsely, that she already had put Sankari into the system for full arrest processing, which would be hard to reverse, to try to pre-empt “pressure.”

“I was afraid for my victim’s safety because of the allegations that were made,” she testified, despite the fact that it “annoyed” her boss.

According to the texts between McAllister and Reichberg, Sankari came up again on Dec. 16, 2015, a few hours after McAllister texted Reichberg to ask if he could get a 60-inch Smart LED TV for less than $1,000, and Reichberg promised to check around.

“Who is this guy we are trying to get out?” McAllister texted. “He was arrested for the same thing not to [sic] long ago. Maybe he needs night in jail.”

Reichberg assured the Floral Park chief that Sankari was “not a bad guy” and was facing false allegations. McAllister texted, “Okay we will get him out but he owes you big. Need new carpet for Summer house. Lol.”

A few minutes later, McAllister texted, “He’s court ready. She will call over.” Reichberg responded “Thx!!!” and McAllister texted, “Tell him I need to view samples wall to wall. …Upstairs hall and 3 bedrooms maybe 1000 sf not alot.”

Weiss said McAllister never received free carpet from anyone.

The government is expected to rest its case when the trial resumes on Monday.

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