Three former NYPD officers plead guilty to bribery

Three former New York Police Department officers have pleaded guilty in two bribery schemes, the Department of Justice said in a press release Thursday. Robert Hassett, Heather Busch and Robert Smith all acknowledged their roles in the “Tow Truck Scheme,” in which they were paid to direct damaged vehicles to a certain tow truck company, and the “Victim Database Scheme,” in which they sold crash victims’ personal information.

On Thursday, Hassett became the third officer involved in the schemes to plead guilty, admitting to investigators his role in accepting bribes between 2016 and 2017 and 2019 to 2020, the press release said.

Busch pleaded guilty on August 5 and Smith pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Both Busch and Smith admitted to investigators that they accepted multiple forms of bribes, the press release said. Smith also admitted to attempting to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin. 

“The defendants’ guilty pleas to accepting bribes are also acknowledgements that they abused the public trust and dishonored the NYPD by their actions,” Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Thursday. “This Office will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute corrupt police officers.”

According to investigators, Hassett and Smith took bribes in 2016 and 2017 to refer vehicles that had been in accidents to a specific tow truck company, going directly against NYPD procedures. When Smith retired in March 2020, he “recruited” Busch, who continued the scheme after he left, according to the press release.

Smith and Hassett also made thousands of dollars selling the names of accident victims in the 105th Precinct to the highest bidder, who would then resell the personal information to “physical therapy businesses and personal injury lawyers who would contact the automobile accident victims as prospective customers,” prosecutors alleged. 

Busch and Hassett resigned from the NYPD after they were arrested in May.

Smith faces up to 25 years in prison for bribery and attempt to distribute heroin charges. Hassett and Busch could serve up to 5 years in prison with their sole bribery charge. 

Each of the officers has agreed to forfeit funds to offset the money they made during their crimes. Smith will turn over $20,000, Hassett will forfeit $10,000 and Busch will give up $6,000, the press release said.