What to Know
- A police officer in NJ admitted to conspiring with other cops to violate individuals’ civil rights and to extortion, prosecutors say
- Jonathan Bustios, 28, a police officer with the City of Paterson pleaded guilty to the charges Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said
- Bustios’ case is just one of a number of recent instances where Paterson officers find themselves facing charges
A police officer in northern New Jersey admitted to conspiring with other cops to violate individuals’ civil rights and to personally accepting a firearm in exchange for reducing the charges of an arrestee, according to federal prosecutors.
Jonathan Bustios, 28, a police officer with the City of Paterson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate individuals’ civil rights and one count of extortion under color of official right, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced Tuesday.
According to documents filed in court, from at least 2016 to April 2018, Bustios and another police officer in Paterson during the time, targeted and stopped certain drivers that they believed carried large sums of money, searched the autos without justification, sometimes also taking cash and other items.
Allegedly, they would split the cash among themselves and submitted false reports to the Paterson Police Department.
In one instance, on Feb. 20, 2018, the two officers pulled over a BMW and sandwiched it in front of and behind their respective police vehicles, according to the complaint. They searched the BMW and detained the two people in the BMW, putting them in the backseat of Ramos' police car.
After searching the BMW, Bustios left the scene, drove for 10 minutes, then stopped his police car and took out a white plastic bag filled with cash, along with a firearm, according to the complaint. Bustios called the other officer who then released the two detained BMW occupants, and drove to meet Bustios who passed him some of the cash.
Later that day, the two officers turned in the gun they recovered, and allegedly lied in their report about having found the gun due to a tip by a concerned citizen. They made no mention of the fact that they'd stopped and searched the BMW, detained and searched the people inside, and taken cash -- all without any warrants.
Bustios extortion under color of official right stems from a March 14 incident in which he apparently told a man he had just arrested that he wouldn't charge him and would let him keep the cash he had if he helped Bustios get a gun.
"I ain't gonna charge you with resisting, and I'm letting you keep your money bro," Bustios allegedly told the individual. "If you don't wanna make the deal, you don't have to make the deal."
Prosecutors say the man ultimately agreed to the deal.
Bustios and the other officer were both arrested in April 2018.
The conspiracy to violate civil rights count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The extortion under color of official right count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for both charges is $250,000.
Bustios’ entencing is scheduled for April 9, 2019.
In a statement to NBC 4, Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziele said Bustios' case "is not indicative of the 418 men and women of Paterson’s Finest that work tirelessly to serve the public daily."
Speziele's statement continues: "As for those that violate the law and their ethical oath they will be sought out and charged accordingly as we have done in this matter. The Chief and I are working with federal authorities and will continue to ferret any police misconduct."
Bustios’ case is just one of a number of recent instances where Paterson officers find themselves facing charges.
On May 30, a police officer was arrested for allegedly assaulting a patient at a Paterson hospital, recording the incident on his cellphone and failing to include the assault in the related police report.
On April 20, another Paterson police officer was arrested and charged with distributing drugs and possessing them with the intent to distribute.