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William Bratton says NYPD cops under suspicion in protection probe

New York City Police Commissioner William J.

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton updates the media on a number of issues and initiatives during a press conference at One Police Plaza on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

A probe into allegations of an NYPD protection racket in Queens among karaoke clubs has gathered steam, with a number of officers facing administrative and possible criminal charges, Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.

While disputing a published report that as many as 23 officers have been implicated in the inquiries, Bratton told reporters “it is an ongoing investigation, a criminal investigation as well as administrative.”

Bratton wouldn’t be specific about how many officers were facing scrutiny in what would be the first significant corruption investigation during his second term as commissioner.

While Bratton wouldn’t reveal the number of officers under scrutiny, attorneys familiar with the investigation, which late last year led to the arrest of former NYPD lieutenant Robert Sung and detective Yatu Yam, believe the case has indeed mushroomed.

“To my knowledge . . . the total police officers under investigation was at least 23, if not more, and should not be limited to those” who have had administrative or criminal proceedings brought against them, said attorney Marvyn Kornberg, who is representing Sung.

An NYPD spokesman Tuesday said a number of officers have been transferred out of the 109th Precinct as a result of the inquiry.

Last December, Sung, 50, and Yam, 35, were indicted for allegedly taking bribes from some karaoke club owners in exchange for tipoffs to drug raids, according to criminal court complaints and law enforcement officials. They also faced charges of official misconduct.

Sung was fired for reasons unrelated to the bribery allegations, said his attorney Marvyn Kornberg. Yam is under suspension without pay.

“We are in the process of attempting to resolve the case,” said attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who is representing Yam.

A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown declined to comment Tuesday about the investigation.

One attorney familiar with the case who didn’t want to be named believed the investigation could get much worse, with other officers facing possible departmental or criminal charges.

The 109th Precinct covers an area of Flushing with a heavy Asian population that has become a magnet for karaoke clubs, bars and room salons that sell high-priced drinks.

In a 2006 police scandal, two officers from the precinct’s quality of life unit were arrested on federal charges they took small payoffs from owners of a number of Korean brothels.

The officers ultimately pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

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