Three New York City police commanders and a business consultant are arrested as part of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Three New York City police commanders and a business consultant were arrested on Monday as part of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that has also been examining Mayor Bill de Blasio's fundraising. The latest arrests mark an escalation of an investigation that has led to discipline for nearly a dozen police officers and forced de Blasio to answer questions about whether he engaged in inappropriate fundraising. A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court accused businessman Jeremy Reichberg, 42, of plying Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, 50, Deputy Inspector James Grant, 43, and others with gifts including prostitutes, sports tickets and expensive trips. As a result, Reichberg was able to secure official favors, including assistance with gun license applications, police escorts, special access to parades and the ability to get out of tickets, the complaint said. David Villanueva, a sergeant, was also arrested and charged with accepting bribes to expedite gun license applications for Alex Lichtenstein, a member of a volunteer safety patrol in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood who was charged in April. A fifth officer, Richard Ochetal, secretly pleaded guilty on June 14 to his role in that fraud and has assisted prosecutors in the cases against Grant, Harrington and Villanueva, 42, according to prosecutors and court records. The officers arrested on Monday and Reichberg are expected to appear in court later in the day. John Meringolo, Grant's lawyer, said he believed no unlawful conduct occurred, while Andrew Weinstein, Harrington's attorney, called the case "politically motivated." Susan Necheles, defense lawyer for Reichberg, said her client "did not commit a crime. His only mistake was his friendship with Jonah Rechnitz, a criminal who has admitted bribing a union official and who is desperately trying to get others in trouble in order to curry favor with prosecutors and save his own skin." Lawyers for Villanueva and Ochetal could not be immediately be identified. De Blasio has repeatedly said he and his administration have acted legally in all respects. He has not been accused of wrongdoing, and the charges thus far are unrelated to his fundraising efforts. The probe is one of several overlapping investigations by state and federal agencies that extend from City Hall to the police department. Approximately a dozen police officers, including high-ranking commanders, have faced departmental discipline stemming from the corruption investigations.