Star federal witness Jona Rechnitz on Wednesday finished two days of direct testimony in the NYPD payoffs-for-favors corruption trial in Manhattan federal court that detailed ties to an array of top cops including Stephen McAllister, now the Floral Park police chief.
Rechnitz, appearing at the trial of ex-business-partner Jeremy Reichberg and former NYPD deputy inspector James Grant, said McAllister — formerly an NYPD inspector — was among the circle of cop pals he and Reichberg plied with gifts to get their official help.
“I had bought him a Chopard watch, had given him a free diamond for his daughter who was getting engaged,” Rechnitz testified. “And there were other jewelry and types of things that we did for him as well in addition to meals that we paid for.”
In return, Rechnitz said, McAllister helped get rid of protesters outside a jewelry store owned by Rechnitz’s controversial multimillionaire Israeli boss Lev Leviev, and was probably “involved” in providing VIP treatment when Leviev visited New York with a police escort and closure of a lane in the Lincoln Tunnel.
“Lev had told me this was the treatment he gets in Russia,” Rechnitz recalled. “He was quite impressed.”
Prosecutors say Rechnitz and Reichberg, both real estate investors, generated a wave of police and political corruption with pay-to-play contributions to Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as payoffs to cops including Grant — ranging from free meals and hotel stays to plane trips, home repairs and prostitutes — to try to enhance their clout in circles of power.
Rechnitz pleaded guilty to multiple charges and agreed to cooperate in hopes of leniency. Former deputy chief Michael Harrington has pleaded guilty in the case. Other uncharged cops like McAllister have been discussed at trial in prosecutors’ effort to prove Reichberg’s intent.
McAllister joined Floral Park’s police force in 2010, and his $245,000 a year contract as chief was extended for two years in April, after a village investigation. McAllister’s lawyer Joel Weiss, responding to a description of Rechnitz’s testimony, issued a statement calling it “replete with falsehoods.”
“Apparently, Mr. Rechnitz has never met a lie he didn’t like,” Weiss said. “It’s noteworthy that, in the face of all his allegations, the Government has charged Mr. McAllister with nothing, nothing at all.”
The trial began Nov. 5. Along with claiming McAllister helped impress Rechnitz’s one-time boss while at the NYPD, Rechnitz repeated previous testimony that as Floral Park chief McAllister arranged bogus appointments as police chaplains and clergy liaison with parking placards for he and Reichberg.
In addition to jewelry, he testified, McAllister was treated to free meals at Manhattan eateries such as Abigail’s and The Prime Grill, got a free plane trip back from a football championship game in Miami, and had Rechnitz and Reichberg donate to the NYPD football team and a Nassau County golf tournament.
In addition to pictures of McAllister dining with Rechnitz, Reichberg and fellow cops, prosecutors introduced a 2013 email chain in which McAllister — “PC FPPD” — told Rechnitz he needed more time to arrange a dinner meeting with another chief, and then added, “Ask Jeremy status of ring?”
Rechnitz provided few details of the aid McAllister gave to impress Leviev, the head of Africa-Israel Investments whose role in the diamond trade has been controversial.
He testified that McAllister requested a $25,000 donation to the NYPD football team when he was asked for help with protests outside Leviev’s Madison Avenue store. It was provided, and after that there was “more of a police presence” and the protesters “got quiet right away,” Rechnitz said.
When Leviev visited New York, Rechnitz said, he got police escorts in New Jersey and in New York City, as well as the cleared lane in the Lincoln Tunnel. Rechnitz said Reichberg set it up, and testified he thought McAllister was involved, citing his NYPD football contacts with officials at the Port Authority and in New Jersey.
Rechnitz is scheduled to be cross-examined when the trial resumes on Thursday.