May 12, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Three NYPD officers who worked out the 105th Precinct in Queens Village have been busted for funneling business to a tow truck company in exchange for cash.
Robert Smith, Robert Hassett and Heather Busch were individually charged with bribery and other crimes in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday for taking part in the scheme between September 2016 and October 2020.
Smith and Hassett were also charged with selling the personal data of crash victims to injury lawyers and physical therapists in order for them to solicit customers.
In another incident, Smith allegedly smuggled at least one kilo of heroin into Queens while in possession of a gun. He retired from the NYPD in March 2020.
All three defendants live in Long Island and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Hassett and Busch, who are both active officers with the NYPD, have been suspended without pay, police said.
“The defendants shamelessly violated their oaths of office and the public trust by trading their badges for cash payments,” said Acting United States Attorney Lesko in a statement.
“This office will vigorously pursue corrupt public servants like these defendants, who exploited their positions as police officers for personal gain.”
Smith and Hassett, 36, accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from the operator of an unnamed tow truck and auto repair company that removed damaged vehicles from crash scenes and then carried out repairs, prosecutors said.
The pair allegedly bypassed an NYPD computer system called Directed Accident Response Program (DARP), which randomly selects a tow trucking business to respond to such incidents. The system is in place to ensure that no particular company in the market receives favorable treatment over another.
The scheme ran from September 2016 through June 2017.
Smith restarted the racket on his own in November 2019 before he recruited Busch to take over the scheme in March 2020 as his retirement drew near.
Busch, 34, then began bypassing DARP in order to send the tow trucking company to crash scenes in exchange for cash bribe payments. Busch carried out the swindle until October 2020.
In another scheme, Smith and Hassett pulled personal information from NYPD databases and supplied it to the owner of the tow truck company for cash—who then forwarded it to physical therapy businesses and personal injury attorneys.
The attorneys and physical therapists would then track down the automobile accident victims as potential customers.
Between January 2020 and March 2020, Smith and Hassett exchanged data on more than 100 crash victims. They netted more than $7,000 cash, which they split.
Prosecutors also presented evidence of Smith bragging about taking part in numerous robberies and shakedowns during his time as a police officer.
He also allegedly used a racial slur to describe instances where he would point his gun at Black people in order to terrorize them and made numerous references to the Ku Klux Klan.
“Bro, I robbed everyone,” he allegedly wrote in one text message, according to court documents. In another recording, he allegedly described himself as “one of the most corrupt cops in the 105th [Precinct].”
Meanwhile, around three months after his retirement in July 2020, Smith allegedly received a bag containing one kilo of heroin in Brooklyn and delivered it to an unnamed individual in Queens, according to prosecutors.
Smith carried a firearm and police identification during the alleged drug run for which he was paid $1,200 from an unknown individual.
The former cop has been charged with bribery, travel act violations, drug trafficking and a firearm charge. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Hassett was charged with two counts of bribery and a single travel act violation. Each count carries a maximum five-year sentence. Busch was charged with bribery and violating the travel act.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said the alleged behavior by the officers was a “disgrace.”
“It erodes public trust in law enforcement and tarnishes the reputations of the many thousands of officers who honorably serve our communities on a daily basis,” Sweeney said.
“Nobody is above the law, and we will not tolerate illegal behavior, especially among the ranks of sworn law enforcement officers.”