The FBI and NYPD arrested two current police officers and one retired officer in connection with purported corruption schemes involving everything from tow trucks to heroin trafficking.
One of the cops, the feds allege, even bragged to others about how much crime he had committed while on the job, at times using racist language.
All three cops -- Heather Busch, Robert Hassett and Robert Smith -- worked in the 105th Precinct in Queens (Smith retired in March 2020), allegedly running the scheme since 2016. All three were arrested at the respective Long Island homes Tuesday morning.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said the trio were allegedly involved in a variety of corrupt endeavors, and that Smith — the supposed ringleader — recruited Busch to join the scam as he was preparing to retire.
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“As alleged, the defendants shamelessly violated their oaths of office and the public trust by trading their badges for cash payments,” Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko said in a statement.
All three, prosecutors say, worked an accident investigation scheme – purportedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes or kickbacks from a towing firm to refer crash jobs to that firm. The officers were said to have picked up the thousands in cash payoffs in a set mailbox.
The NYPD is supposed to use a program where authorized tow operators are picked in order through a computer system. This alleged scheme circumvented that policy.
Smith and Hassett also allegedly went into NYPD databases to look up victim information, to provide it to a person who they thought was a middleman for personal injury lawyers and physical therapists -- but turns out was an undercover.
In addition, the government alleges, Smith allegedly offered to work security for a drug distribution network, saying he had a gun and could do the job. In one instance he was allegedly paid $1,200 to deliver what he thought was heroin as part of a sting operation.
"Bro, I robbed everyone," Smith is said to be heard on a recording saying. "Bro, I point my gun out the window at (racial slur) and watch their reaction and drive away."
Smith, 44, faces life in prison on the drug charges, while Busch, 34, and Hassett, 36, each face at least five years on the bribery charges against them.
"Behavior like the type alleged today is a disgrace," William Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office, said in a statement.
Smith pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail following a request from prosecutors, who cited the alleged nature of his crimes as well the recorded statements from the course of the investigation in which he bragged about other crimes while in uniform, threatened people, cheered for suicides and deaths among other cops and expressed an affinity for the Ku Klux Klan.
"Now the real Smith will shine. I even shaved my head. Klan," Smith allegedly is heard on a recording saying.
Busch and Hassett were released on bail after entering not guilty pleas. Both were suspended without pay by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, saying there is no tolerance for the alleged corruption.