NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Federal investigators have questioned nearly two dozen police officials as part of a probe into whether officers took free trips, meals and other perks from members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities, two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case said Wednesday.
The officers, some of them high-ranking, came to the attention of investigators looking into two Orthodox Jewish businessmen with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe.
Captains Endowment Association head Roy Richter said in a statement his members who have been questioned were told by investigators they weren’t targets of the probe. He said they cooperated fully.
One community affairs detective has been put on desk duty and stripped of his gun and badge, police said. CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday that the detective was from the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn, and took the Fifth Amendment in front of a grand jury.
Sources said a the NYPD members who were questioned also included three deputy chiefs and the head of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side, Kramer reported Tuesday.
No other officers have been disciplined, but they could be if they are found to have accepted freebies. None of the officers has been criminally charged.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment.
The businessmen, Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, served on de Blasio’s inaugural committee in 2013 and contributed to his campaign. The officials who spoke to the AP said they had no direct knowledge of how the two were connected to the gift-giving probe.
Hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews live in communities throughout Brooklyn. In the southern part of the borough, where Reichberg is from, prominent members of the often insular and politically powerful groups have long developed relationships with local police commanders.
An attorney for Rechnitz didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday. Calls to numbers listed for Reichberg weren’t answered.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed the detective had been placed on modified duty “for the good of the department” but said he couldn’t comment on the probe. He said the probe is something “we will participate in and cooperate fully with.”
“On these investigations, we’re not able to comment on them,” Bratton said Tuesday. “It’s an agreement with the bureau.”
Federal agents also have been investigating financial transactions between a real estate company controlled by Rechnitz and the union that represents 9,000 city correction officers, according to a copy of a federal subpoena issued last year and reviewed by the AP.
The subpoena, issued to the union, sought records detailing the flow of union funds into the company, JSR Capital, and into other businesses.
The AP first reported last May that federal investigators were probing the union, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, and its charismatic president, Norman Seabrook.
Seabrook, who declined a request for an interview with CBS2 through a spokesman Tuesday, told the New York Post on Monday he and the former top-ranking uniformed police officer, Phillip Banks III, traveled with Rechnitz and Reichberg to Israel in 2014.
Seabrook told the newspaper that as a thanks for taking them on the trip he and Banks bought Rechnitz a $5,000 custom-made backgammon set “so that nobody can say they bought me the ticket.”
“There is no quid pro quo,” he told the Post, which first reported federal investigators were interviewing police officers.
An attorney for Banks, who left the New NYPD in 2014, declined to comment.
On Wednesday, de Blasio said at an unrelated event that he has not received any gifts or contributions to his re-election campaign from Rechnitz and Reichberg and wouldn’t while the investigation is active.
“Like any American,” he said, “they have the right to due process, and we’ll see what that investigation yields.”
He said he’ll make determinations about their past donations after he sees the results of the investigation.
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