Former NYC Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, an outspoken magnet for controversy who resigned last year amid an ongoing federal investigation that led to raids on his home and the union's Manhattan headquarters, was charged with wire fraud on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors allege that Mullins schemed to steal "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from the SBA by submitting purportedly fraudulent expense reports. They allege that Mullins charged meals, jewelry, appliances, and even a relative's college tuition on his personal credit card, and then submitted inflated expense reports without receipts to the union for reimbursement.
He entered a not guilty plea in court and was released on $250,000 bail. The usually outspoken Mullins did not answer questions as he left federal court in lower Manhattan.
Mullins' lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said in court Wednesday that his client had agreed with prosecutors that he wouldn't have any contact with union members or leaders related to the criminal charge.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said that Mullins "abused his position of trust and authority to fund a lavish lifestyle that was paid for by the monthly dues of the thousands of hard-working Sergeants of the NYPD."
Mullins filed for retirement last October and resigned as head of the union after the FBI raid. The NYPD had placed him on modified duty and taken his gun and badge away.
According to the charges filed Wednesday, Mullins' scheme started in 2017 and went until Oct. 2021. During that time, Mullins used his personal credit card to pay for meals at high-end restaurants and to purchase luxury items, then submitted the false and inflated expense reports to the union, in order to get reimbursed.
Altogether, Mullins was reimbursed for more than $1 million in expenses, the majority of which allegedly was obtained fraudulently.
The charges detailed three types of inaccurate statements on expense reports: Meals that were not SBA-related, inflating the costs of meals (union-related or not), and claiming personal expenses like groceries were SBA-related meals, for which he was recompensated.
For example, Mullins submitted expense reports for more than $3,000 from a posh Greenwich Village restaurant in Nov. 2019 — but the dinners had nothing to do with SBA work. Instead, text messages between Mullins and a worker at the restaurant allegedly showed that on two occasions, he was paying for meals for family and friends. Mullins purchased two $300 gift cards for the restaurant, for which he then sought reimbursement from the union.
In another instance at a different restaurant, he asked an associate if they wanted anything from a steakhouse, and was given a list of several items. Court documents showed that Mullins' Oct. 2020 credit card statement had a $744 expense at that steakhouse, and he later submitted it as an expense to the union, when it was not work-related.
On some occasions, Mullins wrote out the changes, crossing out the total cost and then writing in a number hundreds of dollars higher, literally documenting the false statements, according to the charges.
The disgraced union boss also altered personal expenses to be submitted for reimbursement, according to the charges filed Wednesday, and kept fairly clear documentation of the alleged fraud.
Mullins allegedly kept two copies of his credit card statements at his home office: One labeled "Clean Copy" and the other labeled "Work Copy" or "Work Sheet." The so-called "Clean Copy" would be the credit card bill as is, with no writing, notes or other annotation. The "Work Copy" would have handwritten changes on it from Mullins, prosecutors said, with the amount and sometimes the type of expense changed to a much higher total. Other changes made included non-reimbursable items, like trips to a grocery store, changed to restaurant names, which would then be listed on reimbursement forms.
There were a slew of examples listed in the charges:
- April 2021: Changed a $45.92 charge to an an $845.92 sent charge at a New Jersey wine bar
- April 2021: Changed a $609.89 charge to a $909.89 charge at a steakhouse
- April 2021: Changed a $185.88 charge at a Long Island supermarket to a $685.88 charge at a Manhattan Italian restaurant
- Aug. 2021: Changed a $49.60 charge to a $89.60 charge for a Long Island diner
- Aug. 2021: Changed a $53.56 charge to a $153.56 charge for a Long Island restaurant
- Aug. 2021: Changed a $96.16 charge at a supermarket to a $396.16 charge at a Long Island restaurant
- Aug. 2021: Change a $152.42 charge to a $352.42 charge at a Long Island deli
- Aug. 2021: Changed a $464 charge to a $664 charge at a Long Island pizza place
Mullins typically emailed fraudulent and inflated expense reports to the union treasurer, most of the time without any receipts. The treasurer then issued reimbursement checks from a contingent fund, which is comprised almost entirely of member dues, court documents state. Mullins would then have those checks deposited, and almost immediately after, would pay down his credit card bills with the newly added funds.
"As public servants, members of the SBA pay dues to a union that's supposed to represent their best interests. As SBA president, Mullins allegedly went above and beyond to best serve his own interests," said FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll.
The FBI's early October raid was part of a criminal probe being conducted by the bureau and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
"The nature and scope of this criminal investigation has yet to be determined. However, it is clear that President Mullins is apparently the target of the federal investigation," a message from the SBA Executive Board to members at the time read. The board went on to say that Mullins had resigned as union president.
In the letter to members, the SBA said it would cooperate with the investigation.
"Like all of us, Ed Mullins is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and we ask you to withhold judgment until all the facts have been established," the letter from the SBA executive board read. "However, the day-to-day functioning and the important business of the SBA cannot be distracted by the existence of this investigation."
The SBA represents 13,000 current and former members of the NYPD, according to its website, and controls a $264 million retirement fund; it describes itself as the fifth-largest police union in America, and draws about $1,300 in dues a year from each active member and a one-time payment of $600 per retiree
The raids came shortly after the start of an NYPD internal trial on a variety of administrative charges against Mullins, including for an episode where he tweeted an arrest record for the mayor's daughter.
He was subsequently found guilty and docked 70 vacation days.
Mullins, a police officer since 1982, rose to sergeant, a rank above detective but below captain and lieutenant, in 1993 and was elected president of the sergeants union in 2002. Under Mullins' leadership, the union fought for better pay — with contracts resulting in pay increases of 40% — and staked a prominent position in the anti-reform movement.
But he also courted controversy with his brash remarks on television and social media, leading to a very public war of words with then-mayor Bill de Blasio. He also gave a television interview with a cup referencing the QAnon conspiracy theory on his desk, prompting questions about whether he supported the fringe movement.
Though he was a full-time union chief, city law allowed Mullins to retain his sergeant's position and collect salaries from both the union and the police department. In 2020, Mullins made more than $220,000 between the two, according to public records: $88,757 from the union and $133,195 from the NYPD.
Along with Mullins’ periodic appearances on cable networks like Fox News and Newsmax — perhaps his most powerful megaphone was the union's Twitter account, which at one time had 45,000 followers.
In 2018, amid a rash of incidents in which police were doused with water, Mullins suggested it was time for then-Commissioner James O’Neill to “consider another profession” and tweeted that “O’KNEEL must go!” O’Neill retorted that Mullins was “a bit of a keyboard gangster” who seldom showed up to department functions.
Mullins came under fire and was subject to police department discipline for tweets in 2020 in which he called the city’s former Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, a “b----” and U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres a “first-class whore.”
Mullins was upset over reports Barbot refused to give face masks to police in the early days of the pandemic and angry with Torres’ calls for an investigation into a potential police work slowdown in September 2020. Torres, who is gay, denounced Mullins’ tweet as homophobic.
If convicted, Mullins faces up to 20 years in prison