Three New York City Police officers, including an “unabashedly racist” cop who retired last year, were arrested on Tuesday over a smorgasbord of allegedly corrupt schemes, from stealing car crash victims’ info to funneling damaged cars to a tow trucking business.
Officers Heather Busch, 34, and Robert Hassett, 36, were indicted on five counts of using interstate facilities to commit bribery and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act after allegedly participating in the bribery scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said.
Robert Smith, a 44-year-old who allegedly started the scheme in 2016, was hit with the same charges, plus additional charges of attempting to transport at least one kilogram of heroin, and possessing a firearm during the commission of that crime.
Prosecutors allege that, during his tenure as a cop, Smith participated in several criminal schemes, including “robberies and shakedowns...of individuals and businesses for bribe payments.”
“Bro, I robbed everyone,” Smith allegedly said in one text message to another person, according to a detention memo obtained by The Daily Beast. In another text after his retirement in March 2020, Smith allegedly told an associate he “would brandish his firearm in front of Black individuals to terrorize them,” prosecutors said.
“Bro I point my gun out the window now at [N-word] and watch their reaction and drive way. Hilarious,” he allegedly wrote.
According to the Civilian Complaint Review Board records, 31 complaints dating back to 2002 were filed against Smith while he was an officer. Only a 2011 complaint about offensive language about gender was ever substantiated against him.
“Behavior like the type alleged today is 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,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a Tuesday statement. “Nobody is above the law, and we will not tolerate illegal behavior, especially among the ranks of sworn law enforcement officers.”
Prosecutors allege that from September 2016, Smith and Hassett would respond to car crashes and make sure the wreckage went to a specific automobile repair business in exchange for kickbacks.
The scheme violated the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program, which requires officers to choose from a variety of licensed tow trucking companies in the area of a crash to encourage equal financial opportunity. In exchange, the cops got “thousands of dollars in cash bribes” from an unnamed individual.
It’s unclear how much Smith and Hassett made in total but the indictment says Smith made $4,000 just by steering four cars to the specific tow company between Nov. 2019 and Jan. 2020. Before Smith retired in 2020, he handed the reins to Hassett, prosecutors said, adding that they discussed recruiting Busch, who agreed to join in March.
Busch steered at least six damaged cars to the towing business and received $5,000 in bribes, the indictment states.
Just before retiring, however, Smith and Hassett began to steal names and information on crash victims from NYPD databases for the unnamed person. Prosecutors allege they knew the person was selling the information to a physical therapy business and personal injury lawyers to obtain customers.
Over three months, the pair stole the information of more than 100 crash victims of recent automobile accidents” in exchange for $7,000, the indictment states.
Prosecutors detailed other alleged schemes Smith participated in after leaving the force. In January 2020, Smith expressed interest to the same unnamed individual in transporting “illegal narcotics in exchange for payment,” the indictment says. Smith even said he “could carry a firearm and his retired NYPD identification while he was transporting the drugs,” prosecutors state.
“In July 2020, Smith met with an individual in Brooklyn and accepted a bag containing what Smith understood to be a kilogram of heroin. Smith then transported the bag to a location in Queens where he delivered it to another individual,” prosecutors said. “Smith received a payment of approximately $1,200 in cash for his participation in the scheme.”
All three, who were officers for the 105th Precinct in Queens, are expected in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors are asking for a significant bond for Busch and Hassett.
In the detection memo arguing for Smith to be “permanently detained pending trial,” prosecutors argued he is a clear danger to the community and was a “corrupt NYPD officer” who once wrote to a colleague: “I want to see mass nypd suicide and deaths. Those fake bitches.”
The memo says that Smith had threatened to harm people if “he came to believe they were assisting federal law enforcement authorities,” including one instance where he said he would “get” the unnamed person involved in the schemes if he learned he was “wearing a wire.”
Prosecutors noted that Smith referred to himself in a text message as “one of the most corrupt cops in the 105,” referring to the 105th Precinct. In another message to a fellow NYPD officer, Smith described himself as a “perp that got away,” the memo states.
Smith also displayed “unabashedly racist and hate-filled language in his communications” obtained by federal authorities, the detention memo states. The messages had “numerous references to the Ku Klux Klan, including one—just after his retirement—in which he wrote, ‘Now the real [S]mith will shine. I even shaved my head. Klan.’”
Busch’s attorney did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Lawyers for Smith and Hassett declined to provide a statement.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Hassett and Busch have been “suspended without pay.” The spokesperson referred to a statement by Commissioner Dermot F. Shea that said the department has “zero tolerance” for “corruption of any kind.”