The 105th Precinct in Queens Village has been tarnished by scandal after three of its former police officers pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to a scheme to sell the personal information of automobile collisions in exchange for bribes.
The case is similar in nature to another bribery scam that was run out of the 107th Precinct in Fresh Meadows in which federal prosecutors brought charges against three officers, one of whom retired last May.
On Thursday, Oct. 7, former NYPD Officer Robert Hassett pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in the scheme to steer damaged vehicles to a tow truck company in contravention of the NYPD’s Direct Accident Response Program (DARP) in exchange for bribes, according to the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of New York.
On Aug. 5, former NYPD Officer Heather Busch pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection with her participation in the tow truck scheme, and on Oct. 6, a third defendant, retired NYPD Officer Robert Smith, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in the scheme, while also pleading guilty to attempted distribution of at least one kilogram of heroin, according to prosecutors.
As part of his plea, Smith also admitted that he participated with Hassett in the victim database scheme.
According to court filings and facts presented at the plea proceeding, between 2016 and 2017, Hassett and Smith received thousands of dollars of bribe payments in exchange for referring business to a towing company, contrary to DARP. Smith resumed the corrupt scheme without Hassett in late 2019 and when Smith retired from the NYPD in March 2020, Smith enlisted Busch to take his place in the scheme.
In early 2020, Smith and Hassett also sold the names and contact information of automobile accident victims whose accidents occurred within the confines of the 105th Precinct for thousands of dollars in bribe payments, ostensibly so that the purchaser could resell that personal information to physical therapy businesses and personal injury lawyers who would contact the automobile accident victims as prospective customers.
“The defendants’ guilty pleas to accepting bribes are also acknowledgments that they abused the public trust and dishonored the NYPD by their action,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said. “This office will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute corrupt police officers.”
After Smith’s retirement in March 2020, he also agreed to transport what he believed to be one kilogram of heroin for a drug trafficking organization.
Since their arrests in May 2021, Busch and Hassett have resigned from the NYPD.
When sentenced, Smith faces up to 25 years in prison, while Hassett and Busch each face up to five years in prison. As part of their respective pleas, Smith has agreed to forfeit $20,000, Hassett has agreed to forfeit $10,000 and Busch has agreed to forfeit $6,000.