In real life, the scandal has been less cinematic but even uglier. For starters, it wasn’t rank-and-file cops but members of the brass, inspectors and chiefs, who were arranging chauffeur service for Jona Rechnitz, a businessman and cop buff who in turn provided them with, among other things, a private flight to Vegas complete with a full-service flight attendant.
Quite literally, this is a mile-high scandal involving top cops taking diamonds for their wives, and hookers for themselves from Rechnitz. It turns out he’s also the very high-end bagman who delivered $60,000 in cash — inside a Ferragamo bag — to Norman Seabrook in exchange for the powerful prison guard union boss steering $20 million from his workers’ pension fund into Platinum Partners, a failing hedge fund.
Back to the Vegas flight: One of the cops on it was reportedly Philip Banks, the former chief of department, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD – who’d been widely mentioned as a potential commissioner before Bill Bratton got the job and he walked away.
Banks, who also flew to Israel and California with Rechnitz, is good friends with Seabrook, who joined him on those trips and who’s well known for his taste in both finer things and baser pleasures. And — try to keep up here — Banks, who had a lucrative for-profit business while he was a cop that charged subordinates in the department for promotion exam preparation, signed on with a pot firm hoping for a cut of Gov. Cuomo’s new medical marijuana program in New York after he left the NYPD…
Speaking of criminal conduct, did I mention that Banks’ patron Rechnitz was also a major bundler for de Blasio’s 2013 election campaign and now-shuttered non-profit political operation?
“I wish I never met the guy,” the mayor said of Rechnitz, who has pled guilty to federal charges in connection to federal prosecutors’ case against Seabrook (whom de Blasio had previously called “a friend” and “a great leader”).
If this were a movie, some of the overlapping probes of NYPD brass that began in the Bloomberg-Kelly years would get cut out to keep the audience from getting confused. Like the one with cops taking bribes from a member of the Shomrim, the Jewish pseudo-cop community patrols that have long been supported by the NYPD and de Blasio himself, in exchange for gun permits.
The thread that ties the plotlines together, and explains how the feds found the guy de Blasio wishes he had never met, runs through Hamlet Peralta, owner of the Hudson River Café in Harlem that became a clubhouse hangout for NYPD brass. Peralta’s now charged with setting up a $12 million Ponzi scheme — one that sucked in Rechnitz — as he lived high on the hog and also apparently tried to get right on a debt to the mob.