With the game winding down and the Knicks losing, Rechnitz asked for a consolation prize — $100,000 from Rahr if the Knicks lost, to give to charity.
Stewart [Rahr] “looked at me and said, ‘Jona, you’re a nice kid. Sure. Why not?’ ” said Rechnitz.
Assuming Rahr was joking, Rechnitz went home and sent his new pal an email saying thanks for the good time.
“I get an email an hour later saying, ‘Jona, be in my office tomorrow at Trump Tower on the 24th floor to pick up your check at 12:45!’ ” Rechnitz marvels.
Rahr gave Rechnitz $100,000 to split between Yeshiva Ketana in Manhattan and a Jewish educational program in Israel, and that wasn’t all.
He also made contributions to the Make a Wish Foundation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and made arrangements to meet with Wiesenthal Center co-founder Marvin Hier to learn more about the organization’s civil rights agenda.
The businessmen at the center of a federal corruption probe of NYPD cops have deep financial ties to Mayor de Blasio — with one of them having sent tens of thousands of dollars Hizzoner’s way, sources and records revealed.
Jona Rechnitz, who sources said was “always bragging” about his political connections, attended the Gracie Gala Dinner, a fund-raiser, last October.
Orthodox Brooklyn Police Precinct Ensnared in FBI Corruption Probe
On the Jewish holiday of Purim, ultra-Orthodox big shots in Brooklyn invite police officials over for holiday meals. Then, they share the pictures on social media in an implicit contest over who drew the highest-ranking officer.
Now, those cozy relationships are drawing scrutiny amid a reported federal corruption investigation involving Orthodox businessmen and a raft of New York Police Department officials.
One informed source, a private security consultant who works in the Orthodox community, told the Forward that one of the businessmen named in press reports about the investigation, Hasidic activist Jeremy Reichberg, flaunted his ties to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to exert influence in the NYPD’s 66th Precinct, which encompasses Boro Park and other heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods.
“He’s working with the Mayor’s office, so he had a little bit more connection than any other schmuck on the street,” said Joe Levin, founder of T.O.T. Private Consulting, a security consulting firm specializing in the Orthodox community.
The New York Post reported on April 5 that the FBI is in the midst of a “massive corruption probe” examining trips taken by high-ranking police officers allegedly paid for by Orthodox businessmen. According to the Daily News, a community affairs detective who has served in the 66th Precinct for many years, Michael Milici, has been temporarily stripped of his badge.
Reichberg, one of the three Orthodox men named by the Post, hosted a 2014 dinner attended by de Blasio. The Mayor’s office did not respond to a question about de Blasio’s relationship with Reichberg. Reichberg could not be reached for comment.
According to Levin, Reichberg is just one of many Hasidic activists with outsize pull at the 66th Precinct. “This [precinct] is owned by the Hasidic community,” Levin said. “This is no joke.”
The political intricacies of the 66th Precinct, which includes within it the heavily Jewish neighborhoods of Boro Park, Midwood and Kensington, have a long history of causing trouble for the police. The precinct house on 16th Avenue bears the departmental nickname “Fort Surrender,” in memory of a bloody night in 1978, when an angry ultra-Orthodox mob broke into the building, injuring dozens of police officers.
In 2006, the NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, a former commanding officer of the 66th Precinct who is now commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, was forced to apologize after being accused of using derogatory language about Jews amid an intense clash with ultra-Orthodox community members outside the same 66th Precinct station house.
Despite those and other blowups, ultra-Orthodox advocates have worked hard to keep relations warm between the community and the precinct. Cultivating close ties to the police is seen by some as a defense mechanism. “Historically [in pre-World War II Europe], police were viewed as part of the oppressors,” said Ezra Friedlander, founder and CEO of The Friedlander Group, a political consultancy focusing on ultra-Orthodox clients. “It’s in the DNA of Jews…to show appreciation to the police, so if the community ever needs police protection there’s that camaraderie.”
In Boro Park, that instinct is mixed with the practical needs of the ultra-Orthodox community’s own parallel security and safety forces. These include the Brooklyn South Safety Patrol, better known as the Shomrim, a volunteer security group with its own police-style cruisers; the Hatzolah, an ultra-Orthodox ambulance service; and Misaskim, which aids in disaster relief. Those groups require police cooperation, and build close ties to the precinct.
From left, Jeremiah Reichberg; Philip Banks III, formerly the third-highest ranking chief in the New York Police Department; and Jona S. Rechnitz.
Jona S. Rechnitz, the scion of a wealthy Los Angeles family, came to New York City about a decade ago to make his mark. A brash young man eager to fund philanthropic causes, he cultivated connections with the Police Department — posing with top officials, and once arranging for police bagpipes at a party — and became a fixture at fund-raising events for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Jeremiah Reichberg came from the more cloistered world of Borough Park, Brooklyn, an Orthodox Jewish enclave where he was a familiar presence, even if his private life and business dealings were not well known. He ran a consulting firm, and hosted Mr. de Blasio to great fanfare at his home in 2014 for a fund-raising event.
Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg became close, appearing together at public and private events, and serving on Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration committee — an honor bestowed on the famous, like the writer Junot Díaz and the actor Steve Buscemi, and on lavish givers. In recent weeks, they have become the fulcrum of a sprawling federal corruption investigation into the mayor’s fund-raising activities and the actions of police commanders.
The federal inquiry, which began in 2013, has laid bare the city’s nexus of political influence and campaign donations, dormant for a decade during the administration of the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as the world of those men, like Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg, who sidle up to police officials as a kind of informal currency. The two men — neither of whom has been charged with a crime — appeared to take great pride in the closeness with which they spoke to senior commanders, including Philip Banks III, formerly the third-highest-ranking chief, who has come under scrutiny as part of the inquiry.
Mr. Rechnitz, the 33-year-old son of Robert Rechnitz, a prominent business owner who has raised money for pro-Israel causes in Washington, attended Yeshiva University in New York. After graduation, he found work at a real estate firm, Africa Israel, owned by Lev Leviev, a free-spending Israeli-Russian diamond merchant who invested heavily in New York real estate during the last boom.
Mr. Leviev bought the landmark Apthorp building on Broadway on the Upper West Side in 2006 for $426 million, with plans to convert it to condominiums. He was the financial backer of the developer Shaya Boymelgreen, buying properties in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Africa Israel tangled with regulators and lenders, and became a high-profile casualty of the recession, losing control of the Upper West Side building, and paying a settlement over luxury buildings left unfinished.
At the same time, Mr. Rechnitz was expanding his presence in the city’s Jewish community. Rabbi Steven Burg, the former eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the New York Museum of Tolerance, said he had met Mr. Rechnitz about four years ago through Mr. Rechnitz’s work at the museum.
“Anytime I needed something, he would drop whatever he was doing and help out,” Rabbi Burg said. He said that Mr. Rechnitz helped with the museum’s efforts to provide tolerance training to the Police and Correction Departments starting in 2014.
“He was instrumental,” the rabbi said. “We did a day of training for correction officers and started a whole program working with the Department of Correction.
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, who knew Mr. Rechnitz from Los Angeles, said he was “a charitable guy,” a family man “who is just exceptionally kind and exceptionally giving” to different charities.
It was not clear when Mr. Rechnitz met Mr. Reichberg or what brought them together from different corners of New York City’s political and religious world: Mr. Reichberg from Borough Park’s Orthodox Jewish community, Mr. Rechnitz from a less formally religious community on the Upper West Side.
“Oh, yeah, that’s not Jona,” Rabbi Einhorn said upon learning of Mr. Reichberg and his roots in Brooklyn.
Yet they were often seen together at police events around the city and may have bonded over their common fascination with the police and interest in cultivating connections among the top officials.
Mr. Reichberg became a volunteer police chaplain for the Westchester County Department of Public Safety in 2013. His appointment coincided with a $15,000 donation from J.S.R. Capital, Mr. Rechnitz’s real estate company, to the re-election bid of the county executive, Rob Astorino. (Mr. Reichberg was suspended from the position last week.)
Mr. Reichberg also found himself briefly in the media spotlight in 2013 as a representative of the Glauber family, after their son and pregnant daughter-in-law were killed in a hit-and-run in Brooklyn.
Less is known about Mr. Reichberg, whose company has no public website; fewer public records directly connected to his business, J.R. Consulting, could be found.
By contrast, Mr. Rechnitz seemed eager to expand his profile in New York. A sports fan who favored the Knicks, he placed large bets on the Super Bowl, twice winning substantial sums that he was said to have later donated. He ended up in the gossip pages in 2013 after a casual courtside chat at a Knicks game resulted in a $100,000 donation to several Jewish charities.
Neither Mr. Rechnitz nor Mr. Reichberg appeared to have been well known for their political activities. “I don’t know them. If I bumped into them, I wouldn’t know them,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat who has represented the area of Borough Park in various capacities for more than three decades. “People want to be machers. That’s a good thing, if it’s done correctly.”
Early in the 2013 campaign, Mr. Rechnitz told close associates he favored William C. Thompson Jr., who appeared more likely to prevail. After Mr. de Blasio won the September primary, he and his wife donated the limit, $4,950, to his general election campaign. Mr. Rechnitz also acted as a bundler, collecting $41,650 for the campaign in October 2013. Then, a few days before he was named to the inaugural committee, he bundled another contribution of $3,000.
Three members of the inaugural committee said they were unaware if it ever held a meeting. “It was largely ceremonial,” said Janet Dewart Bell, a communications consultant who was on the committee.
Businessman Eyed in Brooklyn FBI Probe Is Scion of Prominent Orthodox Family
One of the Jewish businessmen at the center of a reported federal corruption investigation rocking New York politics is the scion of a wealthy and politically-connected California Orthodox family, the Forward has learned.
Jona Rechnitz, the 32-year-old real estate developer whose face and name have appeared daily in every New York City tabloid, is the cousin of a controversial ultra-Orthodox nursing home magnate who is a major donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the son of a former national finance co-chair of Senator Lindsey Graham’s 2016 presidential campaign who is active in right-wing pro-Israel politics.
Jona Rechnitz is under scrutiny for trips, meals and gifts that he and a Brooklyn-based colleague, Jeremy Reichberg, are suspected of giving to high-ranking New York City Police Department officials. Both Rechnitz and Reichberg have close ties to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. Four members of the NYPD brass have been placed on
desk duty in the midst of the probe.
Rechnitz’s family ties to his well-connected father, Robert Rechnitz, and his wealthy cousin, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, place his donations to de Blasio in the context of a broader web of political relationships cultivated by members of the Rechnitz family. At a 2013 dinner chaired by his father in Washington, D.C., Jona Rechnitz introduced a speech by Bill Thompson, then de Blasio’s rival in the Democratic mayoral primary, despite eventually backing de Blasio.
“He is an unbelievably charitable person,” said Philip Rosen, a partner at the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Magnes, who specializes in real estate law, said of Rechnitz. “He’s just very motivated to help the Jewish cause.”
The Forward reported on April 6 that Reichberg had flaunted his ties to de Blasio to exert influence within the NYPD’s 66th Precinct in the Boro Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. In 2014, Reichberg hosted a fundraiser at his home attended by de Blasio for the mayor’s Campaign for One New York, a controversial outside charity. The dinner raised $35,000.
Yet it was Rechnitz who gave more to de Blasio, including $50,000 to the Campaign for One New York, as well as the maximum allowable contribution to his 2013 mayoral campaign. (De Blasio said April 8 that he would return Rechnitz’s donatiosn to the campaign.) And his political and social connections go much farther than those of Reichberg, who is a member of an insular Hasidic community in Brooklyn.
Jona Rechnitz’s attorney Marc Harris did not respond to a request for comment. He told The New York Times that Rechnitz had not broken any laws.
A former director of acquisitions at the U.S. subsidiary of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s investment firm Africa-Israel LTD, Rechnitz now runs his own real estate firm, called JSR Capital. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University, the modern Orthodox college in Manhattan, and a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Rechnitz also appears to be something of a gambler. In 2012, he won $50,000 on a $1,000 bet that the first score of that year’s Super Bowl would be on a safety. Two years later, he won $25,000 more making the same bet. He told reporters that he had donated both wins to charity. In 2013, Rechnitz bet pharmaceutical billionaire Stewart Rahr $100,000 to the charity of the winner’s choice on the result of a Knicks game, and won.
Jona Rechnitz’s father Robert Rechnitz is the former chair of the West Coast region of American Friends of Likud, a U.S. nonprofit that supports Netanyahu’s political party. He chaired the Iron Dome Congressional Tribute, a February 2013 event in Washington, D.C. attended by a large number of U.S. Senators, including Rand Paul, Mark Warner, Pat Roberts, and Jean Shaheen. That was when Jona Rechnitz introduced a speech by Bill Thompson.
Robert Rechnitz declined to speak with the Forward.
Rechnitz’s cousin Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, 44, is a major ultra-Orthodox donor whose nursing homes are facing scrutiny from state and federal regulators in California, according to a June report in the Sacramento Bee. Rechnitz is a major giver to Orthodox yeshivas, and wasone of the largest donors to Netanyahu’s reelection campaign in December 2014.
The Forward reported in February on rumors that Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz was among the buyers of the muckraking anti-Orthodox website Failed Messiah. The website has essentially stopped publishing since its purchase by mystery buyers in early 2016, leading to suspicions that buyers meant to kill the controversial site.
Before Jona Rechnitz got caught up in a federal campaign finance probe, he was just another mid-level wheeler-dealer in the New York real estate scrum.
The JSR Capital founder, formerly of Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments, owns just a handful of properties, with a focus on residential buildings with retail components, as well as individual condominium units, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.
Rechnitz, along with associate Jeremy Reichberg, is at the center of an investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political financing.
The pair allegedly provided gifts in exchange for favors to as many as 20 New York Police Department officers, including top department brass.
The JSR boss also donated generously to de Blasio’s election campaign, and to the Campaign for One New York, a political nonprofit supporting the mayor, largely funded by contributions from real estate players. Rechnitz reportedly donated $50,000 to the group. He and Reichberg were both members of de Blasio’s inaugural committee in 2013. He also gave $102,000 to New York’s Democratic Party to fund its campaign to take control of the state Senate.
Rechnitz and Reichberg, of Borough Park, also funneled contributions from Manhattan jewelers Paul “Effy” Raps and Yaron Turgeman, who were subsequently accused of defrauding millions of dollars from Africa Israel founder Lev Leviev, according to the New York Post…
Rechnitz, raised in Los Angeles and educated at Yeshiva University in New York, founded JSR in 2010 following his stint at Africa Israel.
That year Manhattan-based firm bought the Mount Hope Medical Center at 1870 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, paying $1.35 million. JRS renovated the property, then sold it in 2015 for $1.55 million.
The company bought the 33-unit, 27,000-square-foot residential property at 216 East 3rd Street in the East Village the following year, paying $3.5 million.
In May 2013, the firm bought 238 Madison Avenue in Midtown, a 14-unit residential property with ground floor retail. JSR paid $12 million for the 11,000-square-foot property.
The company’s only other building purchase, according to public records, was Solomon Plaza, located at 5002-5024 13th Avenue in Borough Park. Rechnitz paid $25 million for the three-story, 45,000-square-foot office and retail property in April of last year.
Rechnitz has also been active in the market for unsold sponsor units, namely at the Apthrop, a landmarked building located at 2211 Broadway. Africa Israel bought the property, which largely composed of stabilized rental units at the time, in 2006. It converted the building to condos in 2008, in the face of opposition from tenants and financial problems tied to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn.
JSR purchased five units at the building over the past few years, at prices ranging from $1.9 million to $5 million per unit. He managed to flip one of the units, making $400,000 in profit after holding it for only three months.
The investor has a record of picking winners, whether by luck or skill. He won $50,000 gambling on the Super Bowl back in 2012. And, in 2014, he did it again, winning another $25,000 on the football title game.
De Blasio aide warned about shady businessmen in NYPD probe
A top aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio had warned against putting the businessmen now at the center of the NYPD corruption scandal onto Hizzoner’s 2014 inaugural committee, The Post has learned.
But Avi Fink was blown off by de Blasio’s chief fundraiser — whose campaign finance work is under investigation — and also by the committee’s chairwoman.
Fink, a mayoral adviser on Jewish issues who is on leave working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, told Ross Offinger and Gabrielle Fialkoff that he had concerns about Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, sources said Thursday.
The red flags included doubts about how Reichberg, a prominent member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, had attained his wealth, sources said.
“People in the Orthodox community told Avi they had questions about where his money comes from and said he’s not a community activist, he’s only out for himself,” one source said.
Another source said Rechnitz was well-known in the Bukharan Jewish community in Queens for clashing with Israeli billionaire and diamond merchant Lev Leviev over a business deal.
“He had a falling-out with [Leviev] that may have tarnished his reputation,” the source said.
A Mayor de Blasio donor under federal investigation for lavishing cops with gifts also helped pry taxpayer money from the City Council for a police training program he supported.
Real-estate investor Jona Rechnitz used his connections to siphon $655,000 over the past two years from the City Council to fund a law-enforcement sensitivity seminar at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, a source familiar with Rechnitz said.
“Rechnitz was able to secure funding from the council for a program he had an affinity for, based on his status as a heavy political contributor,” the source said.
The Wiesenthal Center established a program in 2004 to teach cops to be more tolerant to religious and cultural minorities.
A museum spokesman called the seminar “universally acclaimed and respected” and said it trained 13,555 officers over the years.
The spokesman said Rechnitz has been a benefactor and volunteer at the Midtown museum since 2012.
The Upper West Side macher gave the museum thousands of dollars in 2014 after winning $25,000 on a $500 Super Bowl prop bet.
But Rechnitz’s primary role was recruiting scores of high-ranking cops and corrections officers to attend the center’s sensitivity-training program, called “Perspectives in Profiling.”
“Jona helped introduce us to people at Corrections and the Police Department,” the museum source said. “He helped bring people to events and helped raise money for [the museum].”
Two attendees included correction-union president Norman Seabrook and then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks, sources said.
The top cops are under federal investigation for receiving gifts and travel fees from Rechnitz.
Rechnitz allegedly funded several other jaunts for top brass to the Super Bowl, China, London, Brazil and Rome and golfing trips to the Dominican Republic.
He also bundled $41,650 for de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and wrote $50,000 in checks to the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit promoting the mayor’s agenda, state campaign-finance records show.
But Rechnitz needed help getting the City Council to fund his pet project, so he turned to the museum’s director, Rabbi Steven Burg, and its politically connected lobbyist then, Michael Cohen, a source said.
“Cohen arranged for tours of the Wiesenthal Center for different lawmakers and arranged for funding as well,” the source said. “He introduced Rechnitz to other elected officials.”
NYPD officials had sex with a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant during at least one trip on a private plane paid for by a businessman at the heart of a federal probe into police corruption, The Post has learned.
Police brass joined the “Mile High Club” with the woman after departing from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport en route to Las Vegas in 2014, sources said.
The call girl repeated her “Coffee, tea or me?” routine when the cops flew back from Vegas, sources said.
“It was first-class plus, with full service,” said a source close to the case.
“They weren’t on commercial airlines. The entertainment was quite good on board.”
Jona Rechnitz, who is under investigation in a suspected gifts-for-favors scheme, provided the high-priced transportation, the sources said.
It was unclear who paid for the prostitute’s services and how many trips took place.
But both Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, another subject of the joint FBI-NYPD probe, accompanied the cops during one getaway to Sin City, a source said.
Deputy Inspector James Grant and Detective Michael Milici were both identified by the sources as having been on board during at least one wild cross-country trip.
Grant, formerly commanding officer of the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct, was stripped of his badge and transferred earlier this month, hours after The Post revealed that he was suspected of accepting cash and diamonds from Reichberg.
Daniel Dromm co-sponsored discretionary funds for NYPD training program linked to Jona Rechnitz
New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was a co-sponsor of $300,000 in discretionary funding awarded to a sensitivity training program that was supported by Jona Rechnitz, one of two men reportedly the subject of a Federal corruption investigation tied to both the New York Police Department and the de Blasio administration.
Mr. Rechnitz’s support for the training program was revealed in a report published by The New York Post. Councilmember Dromm’s co-sponsoring of the funding was identified in the City Council’s Fiscal Year 2015 Schedule C, which details the awarding of discretionary funding.
According to the report in The New York Post, Mr. Rechnitz was introduced to municipal legislators during tours of the Museum of Tolerance New York, where the sensitivity training was reportedly held. The individual, who orchestrated the tours and introductions, was the lobbyist Michael Cohen….
It is not known whether Councilmember Dromm performed any due diligence on how the sensitivity program would recruit law enforcement officers to participate in the sensitivity training. Notwithstanding, because of the reported self-interest Councilmembers generally have in awarding discretionary funds to nonprofit groups that act as political supporters, Councilmember Dromm should have been personally aware about the program, at least for its potential political benefits.
Since it has been reported that one aspect of the Federal corruption investigation into Mr. Rechnitz has focused on whether he provided gifts to police officers in exchange for receiving police services, it is not known if the participation by NYPD officers in this sensitivity training program was part of any arrangement Mr. Reichnitz had with the police officers allegedly implicated in the Federal corruption investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district, which is reportedly heading up the investigations into each of the NYPD and the de Blasio administration, has a policy of not formally acknowledging, much less commenting about, its investigations.
Since the sensitivity training was described to help NYPD officers exhibit tolerance of religious and cultural minorities, it is not known why the NYPD allowed its officers to receive this training in a museum setting instead of reëvaluating its current curriculum of training either through the Police Academy or through One Police Plaza. Last year, the NYPD began to experiment with how it delivered sensitivity training for its new recruits.
Given that City Councilmembers are funding private sensitivity training for police officers, municipal lawmakers may consider the NYPD’s current programs insufficient. Questions submitted in advance by Progress Queens to the deputy commissioner of public information at the NYPD were not answered.
Additionally, it is not known why the City Council would choose to fund sensitivity programs for law enforcement officials through a museum instead of through the Police Academy or through One Police Plaza, when, in fact, municipal lawmakers can compel the NYPD to improve its training by according a budget increase for the NYPD specifically earmarked for enhanced training programs. It’s all the more baffling, because groups are still advocating for police reform, sometimes in excess of the unfulfilled promises made by Mayor de Blasio during his 2013 campaign for mayor, particularly in the wake of startling revelations about the Federal corruption investigation into the NYPD.
Rechnitz funnelled $255K in city money to Wiesenthal Center program: report
JSR boss also allegedly funded a “mile high club” private flight for NYPD brass
Revelations about the political wheelings and dealings of JSR Capital’s Jona Rechnitz, under federal investigation for corruption, continue.
The real estate investor and Africa Israel alumnus reportedly leveraged his political connections to ensure $655,000 in funding over two years for a New York City Police Department training seminar at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
The JSR boss, who worked with the museum since 2012, organized tours for top cops and worked with its rabbi, Steven Burg, and an affiliated lobbyist Michael Cohen – who has since become the museum’s director – to push for funding with the City Council, the New York Post reported, citing a source familiar with Rechnitz’s alleged dealings.
Rechnitz also allegedly gave gifts to and paid travel expenses for NYPD officials, including private jet flights with, at least on one occasion, a prostitute dressed as a flight attendants, the Post reported.
The real estate industry player, a major contributor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as part of a larger probe into the mayor’s campaign financing.
Brooklyn businessman got NYPD helicopters to fly over cruise boat on Hudson River
“Jeremy Reichberg (l.), who donated to Mayor de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, is being investigated by the FBI for doling out gifts to cops in exchange for favors, sources say”
The Brooklyn businessman at the heart of a massive police corruption scandal was so tight with top brass, he got department helicopters to fly over a cruise on the Hudson River, according to multiple sources.
Jeremy Reichberg, 42, leaned on his cop pals to arrange the bizarre gesture to impress nearly 100 people on the boat at some point last summer, sources said.
Reichberg hosted the catered event for members of his bungalow colony in upstate Monticello, according to a source.
Two NYPD helicopters flew over the boat, the source said.
“He wanted to impress people,” another source added, referring to Reichberg…
Another well-heeled businessman, Jona Rechnitz, is also a significant target of the probe, according to multiple sources.
The gifts doled out by Reichberg and Rechnitz include trips to the Super Bowl, Brazil and China, according to sources. Rechnitz owns a private plane, which he’d use to treat the cops, a source added. At least one flight included a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant, sources said.
Cop questioned in NYPD corruption probe kills himself
An NYPD commander who was grilled by the FBI and saw boxes of records seized by Internal Affairs cops amid a widening corruption probe put a gun to his head and killed himself on Long Island Friday, sources said.
Inspector Michael Ameri, 44, head of the Highway District, “felt his career was in jeopardy” as the feds and the Internal Affairs Bureau eyed unauthorized escorts for members of the Orthodox Jewish community, the sources said…
Investigators are examining whether cops provided police escorts for funerals and other events in exchange for cash and gifts — including from businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.
A source said a spooked Ameri had recently distanced himself from Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. “Right before the Jewish holidays, Ameri told people close to him that he was very worried about the probe,” the source said, “and he cut ties with people who the feds were looking at, namely [Alex] ‘Shaya’ Lichtenstein.
“He actually told a high-ranking officer in the highway division to stay away from Shaya, cut off all communication.”
Lichtenstein, a Borough Park Shomrim patrol leader, was arrested by the feds on April 17 on charges that he paid off cops for gun permits…
Investigators are looking at the escort allegations along with other potential corruption, including accusations that cops took cash for expediting gun permits and accepted lavish gifts from Rechnitz and Reichberg. Among the alleged gifts was a flight to Las Vegas — with a hooker on board.
The investigation, by both federal agents and the New York City Police Department is affirming whether or not police officers accepted gifts (including diamonds, trips and prostitutes) in exchange for police escorts, gun permit approvals, and other assorted favors, according to police sources. At the center of the probe have been two Orthodox Jewish businessmen named Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, a gun-broker (allegedly operating outside the law) named Shaya Lichtenstein and Hamlet Peralta, who once owned the Hudson River Cafe. Mr. Peralta was charged in April with running a $12 million Ponzi scheme. A member of a private security patrol in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, has supposedly boasted of gun permits he got for 150 of his friends from the NYPD, paying police officers $18,000 per permit.
Orthodox Donor Murray Huberfeld Arrested in Norman Seabrook Kickback Scheme
Federal agents arrested a major Orthodox philanthropist on fraud charges Wednesday morning in connection with a sprawling corruption investigation now shaking political circles and the Orthodox community in New York City.
Murray Huberfeld, a financier with a long history of run-ins with regulators, was charged with honest services wire fraud for an alleged kickback he paid to Norman Seabrook, the powerful president of the union representing New York City corrections officers, who was also arrested.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office is charging Huberfeld and Seabrook, called their alleged scheme a “very simple and straightforward quid pro quo.”
Seabrook is accused of sending $20 million from his union’s pension fund to a hedge fund controlled by Huberfeld. Huberfeld, in return, is accused of paying Seabrook $60,000 in cash, with the promise of more.
According to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Seabrook received the payoff in a fancy bag from Ferragamo, a luxury goods store Seabrook particularly liked. FBI agents found ten boxes of Ferragamo shoes at Seabrook’s home during a Wednesday morning search.
Huberfeld’s hedge fund also gave an $18,000 donation to a “private school” with ties to an unnamed cooperating witness to thank the cooperating witness for connecting Seabrook and the fund, according to the complaint.
According to the New York Times, that cooperating witness is Jona Rechnitz, one of the two Orthodox businessman at the center of a sprawling investigation into corrupt favors allegedly accepted by high-ranking members of the New York City Police Department.
The Times reported that Rechnitz has pled guilty to fraud charges and is cooperating with investigators. The arrests of Huberfeld and Seabrook come amid months of uncertainty and strained relations between city officials and Orthodox leaders stemming from the NYPD investigation, in which a number of top police officials have already been disciplined and reassigned.
Huberfeld is a major donor to Chabad-Lubavitch synagogues, Boro Park yeshivas, and is a member of the board of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a California-based group that opposes anti-Semitism.
A resident of Lawrence, New York, Huberfeld founded Centurion Credit Management in 2005. He was convicted of fraud in 1993 for having someone else take a broker license exam in his name. In 1998, he and his partner settled a civil complaint brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission by giving up $4.6 million in profits and paying a $50,000 penalty.
An earlier Huberfeld venture, Broad Capital, specialized in selling penny stocks to Jewish charities.
Through his private foundation, the Huberfeld Family Foundation, Huberfeld gives millions in grants a year to Jewish charities. In 2014 alone, the foundation gave out $3.1 million, much of it to synagogues linked to the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic group, and to ultra-Orthodox institutions in Boro Park, Brooklyn. The foundation has also sponsored a named program at the Modern Orthodox rabbinical school at Yeshiva University.
ASTORIA — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said he rued the day he met Jona Rechnitz, the wealthy businessman and donor to his campaign who helped federal officials bring down the head of the correction officers union using a Ferragamo bag stuffed with $60,000 in bribe money.
"Look, I wish I never met the guy," de Blasio told reporters during an unrelated press conference at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, hours after the feds announced the arrest of Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook on fraud and corruption charges.
"If we had any inkling that this was the kind of human being he was, never would have gone near him. Of course, I wish that day had never happened but we had no reason to know this is what he was up to," the mayor added.
Rechnitz, who is a real estate developer, was a member of de Blasio's inaugural committee. He and his wife each gave the maximum to de Blasio's campaign and he also gave $102,300 to the mayor's effort to return the state Senate to Democratic control.
Rechnitz also donated $50,000 to the mayor's nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, created to advance de Blasio's political agenda.
Federal authorities say Rechnitz was a go-between who helped connect Manhattan-based hedge fund manager Murray Huberfeld to Seabrook as part of a scheme to steer $20 million in correction union pension money to the Platinum Partners hedge fund.
"[It's time that] Norman Seabrook got paid," Seabrook said, according to the complaint against him.
Rechnitz told Seabrook that he could net $150,000 in the scheme but Seabrook balked when the businessman delivered a payment of $60,000 in cash to the union head in an $820 Salvatore Ferragamo bag, saying that it wasn't enough, according to the complaint.
Both Seabrook and Huberfeld have been charged with fraud and conspiracy.
Rechnitz, along with Jeremy Reichberg, have also been identified as part of an expanding federal probe of the NYPD that alleges that high-ranking officers accepted cash, international trips and other gifts from the businessmen in exchange for favors from police, including escorts to the airport.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has stripped a growing number of high-ranking officers of their guns and badges and demoted others as part of the probe. Many of the officers involved have filed for retirement, while one officer who was questioned in the probe committed suicide.
Rechnitz is now a cooperating witness with the federal investigation and has pleaded guilty to fraud, according to sources.
De Blasio has maintained that he did not have a close relationship with Rechnitz.
"I never knew him before the fall of 2013 after I won the Democratic Primary, where suddenly, everyone wanted to be my friend," de Blasio said Wednesday…
The mayor has seen his poll numbers dip to record lows in the wake of the scandals, but has insisted that the public is not that interested in the probes and more focused on how he is working to improve life for every day residents.
He also resisted efforts to connect Seabrook’s arrest to the probes surrounding his administration, in spite of the link to Rechnitz.