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4 Suffolk detectives transfer out of DA’s corruption bureau

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota at his

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota at his Hauppauge office on Tuesday Sept. 3, 2013 Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Four Suffolk County police detectives assigned to the district attorney’s government corruption bureau have transferred back to police headquarters, law enforcement sources said.

The transfers come at a time when the district attorney’s office, along with the corruption bureau’s chief, Christopher McPartland, are under federal scrutiny.

Police spokesman Justin Meyers confirmed that detectives Kevin Braithwaite, John Gang, Timothy McGrath and Christopher Rizzi each requested to be transferred out of their assignments earlier this month.

Meyers would not comment on the reason for the transfer requests except to confirm the date Braithwaite and McGrath put in for their transfers — May 13. That was the day after County Executive Steve Bellone publicly called for District Attorney Thomas Spota’s resignation.

Braithwaite and McGrath are now working at the department’s fugitive unit. Gang and Rizzi put in for their transfers on May 20. As of Tuesday, the two were back at police headquarters working in the narcotics unit.

Sources familiar with the matter said the investigators were becoming concerned that McPartland, Spota’s top corruption prosecutor and the target of a federal grand jury probe, could taint the integrity of ongoing investigations by continuing to work cases.

At least two of the investigators that were transferred also worked on the 2007 wiretap investigation of politically connected defense attorney Robert Macedonio, sources said.

That investigation, which lasted at least a year, was led by Spota, prosecutor McPartland and James Burke, who at the time was the office’s chief investigator.

Federal authorities have been looking at the Macedonio investigation because of an alleged bribe to prosecutor John Scott Prudenti that went uninvestigated, sources familiar with the case have said.

Burke, who was appointed as Suffolk police’s chief of department by Bellone in January 2012, is now in federal prison awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges that he beat a suspect who stole a duffel bag from his department-issued vehicle in December 2012 while the man was in custody. He also pleaded guilty to orchestrating a cover-up of the crime.

A federal grand jury has notified McPartland that he is a target of the U.S. attorney’s office’s ongoing investigation into Burke. Investigators are probing whether McPartland participated in meetings with Suffolk law enforcement officials and encouraged them to lie about Burke’s actions in the assault, sources have said.

Bellone has called for Spota to resign for allegedly using his office to protect friends and punish enemies. He has also said his appointment of Burke was based on Spota’s assurance that the officer had been properly vetted. Spota has said Bellone’s comments were based on “a vendetta” because Spota had prosecuted allies of Bellone.

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