Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Robert Smith, a former New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) police officer, was sentenced by United States District Judge Rachel P. Kovner to 97 months of imprisonment for using interstate facilities to commit bribery and attempting to transport heroin. During the relevant period, Smith was a NYPD police officer assigned to the 105th Precinct in Queens, retiring in March 2020. Smith pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2021. Smith’s co-defendant, Heather Busch, also a former NYPD police officer, was sentenced in February 2022 to six months’ imprisonment, after pleading guilty in August 2021 to using interstate facilities to commit bribery. Another co-defendant, Robert Hassett, also a former NYPD police officer, pleaded guilty in October 2021 to conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and is awaiting sentencing.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, NYPD, announced the sentence.
“Corruption not only endangers the communities that police officers are sworn to serve, but it also corrodes the public’s trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Robert Smith and his co-defendants were corrupt officers who sold out their badges for personal gain without regard for the betrayal and the harm they caused the NYPD and their fellow officers,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “For his crimes, Smith, self-described as ‘one of the most corrupt cops in the 105’, deservedly will spend years in prison. Today’s sentence should send a message that this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will work diligently to investigate and prosecute corrupt public servants who exploit their positions of power for profit.”
“We have zero tolerance for corruption of any kind within the NYPD,” stated NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “We and our law-enforcement partners will continue to vigorously pursue corrupt public servants who exploit their positions for personal gain. In addition to eroding public trust in law enforcement, their disgraceful actions tarnish the reputation of the many thousands of police officers who honorably serve our communities each day.”
Smith engaged in several corrupt schemes to solicit and receive bribes while employed by the NYPD. Upon his retirement from the NYPD, Smith agreed to transport illegal drugs while armed with a gun in exchange for cash payments. In recordings obtained by the government during the investigation, Smith repeatedly referred to himself in criminal terms as, for example, “one of the most corrupt cops in the 105,” a “perp that got away,” and someone who, had he not been an NYPD officer, would have been “locked up so many times.”
The Tow Truck Scheme
Beginning in September 2016, NYPD Officers Smith and Hassett responded to automobile accidents by directing the damaged vehicles to a licensed tow trucking and automobile repair business (the “Business”) operated by an individual (the “Individual”), instead of using the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program (“DARP”), which requires NYPD officers to identify an appropriate licensed tow trucking business to respond to the scene of the automobile accident and remove the damaged vehicles from the scene. Smith and Hassett bypassed DARP and directed damaged vehicles directly to the Business in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash bribe payments. Smith and Hassett continued to participate in the scheme until at least June 2017.
In November 2019, Smith resumed his participation in the scheme and continued to steer vehicles damaged in automobile accidents to the Business in exchange for cash. Beginning in January 2020, Smith discussed his plan to recruit Busch to participate in the scheme in advance of his retirement from the NYPD. In March 2020, Busch, at Smith’s invitation, met with Smith and the Individual and agreed to participate in the scheme. Thereafter, Busch began steering vehicles damaged in automobile accidents to the Business in exchange for cash bribe payments, instead of utilizing DARP as required.
The Victim Database Scheme
Beginning in January 2020, Smith and Hassett obtained the names and identifying information of recent automobile accident victims from NYPD databases and provided that information to the Individual in exchange for cash. Smith and Hassett understood that the Individual would sell that information to physical therapy businesses and personal injury attorneys so that they could seek to solicit the automobile accident victims as customers.
Hassett accessed NYPD databases on numerous occasions in violation of NYPD regulations for the purpose of obtaining the names and identifying information of victims of automobile accidents. Hassett then arranged for that information to be delivered to the Individual, sometimes through Smith. In total, between January 2020 and March 2020, Smith and Hassett sold the names and identifying information of more than 100 victims to the Individual, in exchange for more than $7,000 in cash.
The Armed Drug Trafficking Scheme
Beginning in January 2020, Smith sought opportunities from the Individual to transport illegal narcotics, in exchange for payment, upon Smith’s retirement from the NYPD. In June 2020, Smith met with two undercover law enforcement officers posing as narcotics traffickers to discuss his interest in participating in a scheme to traffic drugs and told them he could carry a firearm and his retired NYPD identification while he was transporting the drugs. In July 2020, Smith met with a third undercover law enforcement officer and accepted a bag containing what Smith believed to be a kilogram of heroin. Smith transported the bag to a location in Queens where he delivered it to another undercover law enforcement officer in exchange for a payment of approximately $1,200 in cash.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan C. Harris and Nicholas J. Moscow are in charge of the prosecution.
Massapequa, New York
Farmingville, New York
Plainview, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-254 (RPK)