A high-ranked NYPD auxiliary police officer was charged Tuesday with running an elaborate computer hacking scheme at a Brooklyn precinct through which he tried to defraud people involved in automobile accidents, officials said.
Yehuda Katz, 45, of Brooklyn, who was assigned as an auxiliary deputy inspector at the 70th Precinct in the Midwood section, was accused of placing electronic devices and video cameras to illegally access NYPD computers to glean personal information on about 6,400 accident victims.
Katz, also known as Yehuda-Ari Katz, then allegedly used the information to pose as a fictitious attorney and solicit business from the victims with promises that he was certain about settling their cases in return for a 14 percent cut, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court.
Katz has been an auxiliary officer since 1997 and was suspended pending termination, said a spokeswoman for the NYPD. Auxiliary cops are volunteers who help the department on traffic and crowd control. Auxiliaries aren't paid but get a $250 yearly uniform stipend. They don't carry guns but have batons and police radios, said a department spokesman.
The criminal complaint accused Katz of last year planting numerous electronic devices in the precinct's traffic safety office that allowed him to access department computers' law enforcement databases. As an auxiliary, Katz had no authority to access the computers, officials said. Katz is also accused of planting a small video camera in the office to monitor activity, according to the complaint.
As part of the scheme, Katz is accused of contacting the accident victims while posing as an attorney with the firm of "Katz & Katz, PC," and telling them in a letter "I can advise you with 100% confidence that I can resolve this claim in your favor" and that "My fee is 14% only when I collect. And I know you will collect," the complaint stated. Officials said Katz is not an attorney in New York State and that the firm doesn't exist.
Police discovered the electronic devices and camera last summer and the Internal Affairs Bureau then began an investigation, according to the complaint.
The complaint didn't specify if any accident victims used Katz's services, though it did say that 65 victims called a telephone number used by Katz.
At a federal court appearance Tuesday, Katz waived a hearing on the complaint and was released on $75,000 bond, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. His attorney could not be reached.