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Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Former Escort at Center of NYPD Corruption Scandal: I Didn’t Know They Were Cops

What to Know

  • Six people, including four NYPD officers, were charged or pleaded guilty to charges in the ongoing corruption investigation
  • The charges come amid a probe that focuses on whether former NYPD supervisors accepted gifts and vacations in exchange for official services
  • Gabi Grecko was allegedly hired to service at least one of those accused

The woman at the center of an NYPD corruption scandal says she will testify if asked to do so in the case against police officers who are facing federal bribery charges along with a Brooklyn businessman. 

Gabi Grecko, the former escort who allegedly joined former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant and two businessmen on a jet trip to Las Vegas three years ago and spent the weekend in Grant's hotel room, said Friday she has moved on from that period of her life.

Emerging in downtown Manhattan with her attorney, Grecko claims she did not know that some of the men aboard that chartered flight to the Super Bowl in 2013 were police officers. She says she worked as an escort because she had no other means of paying her rent, and considers it a dark point of her life. 

"It's not something I'm proud of and I don't want it to define me or my career," says Grecko, who says she is now a designer and actress.

Grecko's attorney said his client wants to forget about the whole experience, but will testify against the NYPD officers if called to the stand. 

Grant, along with Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Sgt. David Villanueva are accused of accepting gifts and favors from influential businessmen in exchange for favorable treatment and official services, including one instance in which the businessmen allegedly pulled strings to get the NYPD to shut down a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel so officers could escort an entrepreneur visiting from another country.

Two of those businessmen, Jeremy Reichberg and Alex Lichtenstein, are also under federal indictment, and Reichberg allegedly orchestrated the trip to Las Vegas involving Grecko. 

A fourth officer, Richard Ochetal, has already pleaded guilty to bribery charges in connection with the probe. Another businessman, Jona Rechnitz, previously pleaded guilty to charges and has been cooperating with federal investigators.

Grant and Harrington were placed on modified duty after they were implicated in the investigation earlier this year. The two officers later put in retirement papers and will receive their retirement benefits. 

Villanueva, meanwhile, has been suspended. Ochetal was placed on modified duty. 

Susan Necheles, Reichberg's attorney, has said her client did not commit a crime. 

Harrington's lawyer, Andrew Weinstein, said that the charges were politically motivated. 

Grant's attorney didn't return calls seeking comment following his initial arrest, and the head of his union declined to comment. 

The charges come amid a widening probe that focuses on whether former NYPD supervisors accepted gifts and vacations in exchange for official services like police escorts, fixing tickets or shutting down streets for private events.

Among those who have been under scrutiny is former NYPD Chief of Department Phil Banks, who allegedly took vacations with Rechnitz along with former correction union boss Norman Seabrook. An attorney for Banks said that the former top cop didn't knowingly violate the law.

Seabrook was arrested on corruption charges earlier this month and pleaded not guilty. Banks, through defense lawyer Ben Brafman, has denied any wrongdoing.

Several other officers retired or were placed on modified duty since the criminal investigation began. Former 66th Precinct community affairs officer Michael Malici was fired after the NYPD said he refused to cooperate in the investigation. Inspector Michael Ameri shot and killed himself on Long Island after being questioned in connection with the investigation.

Federal investigators continue to look into the fundraising practices of Mayor de Blasio and some of his key staffers. They want to know if favors, contracts or positions were offered in exchange for campaign donations.

Questions have swirled around the mayor's fundraising, including his efforts to try to help Democrats take over the state senate, his efforts to ban horse carriages and even a contract given to a donor who now sells the city’s so-called rat-proof garbage bags.

The mayor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said all campaign activities followed the law.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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