Three NYPD agents were arrested Tuesday for running a tow truck bribery program while on duty and for peddling personal information of accident victims.
Heather Busch, 34, Robert Hassett, 36, and Robert Smith, 44, all from the 105th District, have been charged with five counts of using interstate facilities to commit bribes and two counts of conspiracy to violate the travel law.
Smith, who reportedly identified with the Ku Klux Klan, is also accused of attempting to transport at least a kilogram of heroin and possession of a firearm while committing the crime after his retirement in March 2020.
“The defendants have shamelessly violated their oaths of office and public trust by exchanging their badges for cash payments,” Acting US District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark Lesko, said in a statement.
Beginning in 2016, Smith and Hassett responded to car accident scenes and asked a specific tow truck and auto repair company to remove the damaged vehicles in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash payments, federal prosecutors say. from Brooklyn.
Officers bypassed the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program, which requires police to use a computer program that randomly selects a licensed towing company to ensure that no company receives preferential treatment.
On the eve of Smith’s retirement, he reportedly recruited Busch to replace him in the corruption racket. Busch agreed and began working with Hassett to direct business to the tow truck company, which is not named in court documents.
In another ploy, Smith and Hassett allegedly hacked into NYPD databases to obtain the names and credentials of traffic accident victims. They sold the data to the same co-conspirator in the tow truck program that sold the information to personal injury attorneys and physiotherapists, authorities said. The couple reportedly earned $ 7,000 for handing over the personal information of 100 victims, prosecutors said.
After retiring, Smith reportedly moved on to a more serious felony, agreeing to traffic heroin for a criminal organization while carrying a gun, court documents charge.
In July 2020, he allegedly picked up a bag in Brooklyn that he said contained a kilogram of heroin and delivered it to an individual in Queens in exchange for $ 1,200, according to Brooklyn prosecutors.
He suspected federal authorities were probing him and was captured on audio and video tapes that allegedly threatened to “shoot” a suspected snitch, prosecutors wrote in a detention memo.
According to the memo, Smith allegedly participated in other uncharged crimes, including “thefts and attacks” on individuals and businesses while serving as a serving officer.
In a series of text messages, Smith is said to have boasted of having enjoyed aiming his gun at blacks to “terrorize” them and to identify with the Ku Klux Klan.
“Now the real one [S]mith will shine. I even shaved my head. Klan, ”he reportedly wrote in a post after his retirement.
NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea condemned the alleged misconduct.
“There is no tolerance within the NYPD for corruption of any kind,” he said in a statement.
If convicted, Smith faces life imprisonment. Hassett and Busch face up to five years in prison on each count of corruption and conspiracy.
The trio pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn. Smith was held without bond and Hassett and Busch were each released on $ 200,000 bail.