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Corruption witness tells of perks, favors from police, politicians at Seabrook retrial

Norman Seabrook, the  former head of the

Norman Seabrook, the  former head of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan for his retrial Monday.  Credit: Charles Eckert

Star government corruption witness Jona Rechnitz testified Wednesday at the bribery retrial of former city jail-union boss Norman Seabrook that Floral Park’s police commissioner supplied undeserved chaplain’s credentials so Rechnitz could have a parking placard in New York City.

Rechnitz, detailing the perks and favors he and partner Jeremy Reichberg got from their web of police and political contacts, said he only set foot in Floral Park once in his life, but Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister helped because of his relationship with Reichberg.

“Stephen McAllister is a very close friend of Jeremy,” Rechnitz testified in Manhattan federal court. “Jeremy said Steve will make me a clergy liaison, and make Jeremy a chaplain.”

Real estate investors Rechnitz and Reichberg were at the center of a political corruption scandal that embroiled the NYPD and City Hall in 2016. Prosecutors say Rechnitz, a cooperating witness, paid Seabrook a $60,000 bribe to invest $20 million in union pension money with a hedge fund.

The government has previously alleged in court filings that Reichberg, who is scheduled to go on trial in the fall for bribing NYPD officials, provided McAllister — a former city cop — with home improvements, jewelry, travel and tickets in return for favors, including a Floral Park chaplaincy and intervention in arrests.

But Rechnitz’s testimony Wednesday, during a recitation of various misdeeds in his campaign to become a mover and shaker in New York City politics and business by greasing palms, marked the first description of the perks McAllister provided from the witness stand.

He admitted he and Reichberg had previously gotten chaplaincies in Westchester County and parking placards through favors for the county executive, explaining that parking was a convenience but he also wanted to be a “show off by having things other people didn’t have.”

After telling prosecutor Martin Bell that he thought Floral Park was in Queens, Rechnitz said he had no contact with officials there, performed no religious services for the police, and wanted a second credential just to have it. “It was getting as much as I could at the time,” he said.

McAllister and his lawyer did not return calls for comment, but McAllister previously told Newsday that Rechnitz was a “complete liar,” and lawyer Joel Weiss says a village investigation cleared McAllister of wrongdoing. In April, his contract was extended for two years at $245,000.

Rechnitz, is making his second appearance as a star witness against Seabrook, whose first trial ended with a hung jury last year on charges that Platinum Partners hedge fund founder Murray Huberfeld used Rechnitz as a conduit to deliver $60,000 in cash to Seabrook in a Ferragamo bag.

In his second day of testimony at the retrial Rechnitz, 35, who has returned to his native Los Angeles, repeated a litany of misconduct that he described at the first trial — from donating to Mayor Bill de Blasio in return for special access to City Hall, to taking top cops on trips and buying them gifts and meals in exchange for favors.

Rechnitz said he also helped raise money for two different Ponzi schemers, lied to get health insurance and a gun permit, collected $60,000 insurance for a stolen watch that he later found and didn’t report, and initially tried to deflect corruption investigators by claiming that close ties to police were one of the lessons of the Holocaust.

At one point, he said, he tried to use his ties with de Blasio to get appointed to a commission on police corruption — a way, he said, to tip off police he had corrupted if he learned anything useful.

“I just wanted to be involved with it so I could further my corruption,” he said.

Rechnitz is scheduled to resume his testimony on Thursday.

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