3 current and former NYPD officers charged in alleged towing company bribery scheme
Three current and former NYPD officers from Long Island have been charged in an alleged towing company bribery scheme, a nine-count indictment unveiled Tuesday.
Heather Busch, 34, from Massapequa; Robert Hassett, 36, from Farmingville; and Robert Smith, 44, of Plainview, were indicted on five counts of using interstate facilities to commit bribery and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act. Smith also was charged with attempting to transport at least one kilogram of heroin and possessing a firearm during the commission of that crime.
According to the Department of Justice, all three worked in the NYPD's 105th Precinct. Smith retired in March 2020.
Beginning in 2016, the indictment says Smith and Hassett responded to car accidents by allegedly directing the damaged vehicles to a certain licensed tow trucking and auto repair business instead of using the NYPD's Directed Accident Response Program. DARP ensures no business receives favored treatment, and NYPD officers are required to utilize the computer system that randomly selects a licensed tow trucking business, according to the release.
According to the indictment, the officers bypassed that and directed damaged vehicles directly to a certain business in exchange for thousands in cash bribe payments.
The two halted the alleged scheme in mid-2017, but Smith resumed in late 2019 and recruited Busch in 2020 ahead of his retirement, the Department of Justice says.
Smith and Hassett also allegedly utilized NYPD databases of recent car crash victims and offered it up for cash. That person would then sell the info to physical therapy businesses and personal injury attorneys in order to solicit customers, the Department of Justice says.
The indictment says Smith and Hassett sold the information of more than 100 people in exchange for more than $7,000 from January to March 2020
Smith is also accused of an armed drug trafficking scheme. The indictment says in July 2020, he met with someone in Brooklyn and accepted a bag containing what Smith understood to be a kilogram of heroin. Smith then transported it to Queens, where he delivered it to another person and received a payment of about $1,200.
If convicted, Smith faces up to life imprisonment on the drug trafficking charge, up to five years in prison on each count of bribery and a mandatory consecutive sentence of five years to life imprisonment on the firearm charge.
Hassett and Busch face up to five years' imprisonment on each bribery count, and up to five years' imprisonment on the conspiracy to violate the Travel Act.