By Murray Weiss (DNA Info)
June 22, 2016
The two Brooklyn businessmen accused of bribing police officials for favors believed they wielded enough power at the NYPD and in City Hall to make one of their pals the next police commissioner, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, who were also campaign fundraisers for Mayor Bill de Blasio, claimed they had the political muscle to not only help get their friends promotions and cozy assignments inside the NYPD, but to install them atop the nation’s largest police force, according to sources familiar with their secretly recorded conversations.
“Jeremy must have said it a hundred times, that he was going to get [Deputy Inspector James Grant] to be the police commissioner,” said a source familiar with wiretapped conversations between Reichberg and Grant and others.
In a federal criminal court complaint filed on Monday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, prosecutors claimed that in 2014 Reichberg already had the connections to get gun permits upgraded in a single day, not the months it usually takes, and had already gotten Grant a coveted post in Manhattan that would fast-track him to the upper echelons of the department.
When Reichberg asked to get the permit immediately, an officer in the License Division said it “would take longer.” That prompted the businessman to "boast of his connection to [then Chief of Department Phil Banks]" and how he “was responsible for getting Grant his position as the commanding officer of the 19th Precinct” on the Upper East side, according to a criminal complaint.
Sources recalled how, at the time, Reichberg and Rechnitz were such fixtures in Banks' office that colleagues and subordinates thought they had "practically moved in."
But few people knew just how close they were.
The two businessmen frequently took Banks and his close friend, Correction Union President Norman Seabrook, who's been arrested on fraud charges, on vacations to Israel and the Dominican Republic, among other destinations, according to court documents and sources.
Banks even invested in Rechnitz's business ventures, as DNAinfo New York previously reported.
Mentioning Banks' and Grant's names inside the License Division was like waving a magic wand for Reichberg, who received his license within hours when it could take weeks if not months for the average applicant, investigators said.
Rechnitz and Reichberg were friends and business associates since 2011, and by 2013 became donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign. They later both served on the mayor's Inauguration Committee.
Rechnitz also donated the maximum $102,300 to the mayor’s unsuccessful efforts to unseat upstate Republican legislators to retake the Senate for Democrats.
Meanwhile, the two businessmen were allegedly doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish gifts, expensive meals and free travel to police officials in exchange for having instant access to the NYPD for their personal needs and those of their friends.
In the end, Rechnitz was snared in a separate bribery scheme involving Seabrook, who accepted $65,000 in exchange for funneling $20 million of his union funds into a hedge fund run by a friend of Rechnitz, who was also charged.
He pleaded guilty and began cooperating in a variety of probes, including those involving the NYPD and the mayor’s fundraising activities.
DNAinfo New York disclosed on Tuesday that Rechnitz allegedly paid a high-end prostitute $10,000 to accompany him, Grant, Reichberg and others on a private jet flight to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl weekend in 2013.
He also picked up the $59,000 airfare and other hotel and meal costs, the feds say.
On Monday, Grant, Reichberg and Deputy Chief Michael Harrington were charged with bribery related charges for taking lavish gifts, free trips and expensive meals as part of a pay-for-favors scandal.
Both officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.