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FBI Probing NYPD For Reportedly Accepting Meals And Lavish Trips

Interviews with several high-ranking officials have led investigators to believe that some may have accepted benefits from Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn.

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Several high-ranking NYPD members have been transferred or have had their duties modified as details emerge from a two-year federal investigation into officials reportedly accepting gifts — such as free meals and international trips — in exchange for favors.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement Thursday that the department started an investigation with the Internal Affairs Bureau at the end of September 2013. In early 2014, the FBI and Department of Justice began their own investigation, and the organizations consolidated their reviews.

Based on the investigation, Bratton said the department has "modified and transferred" Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant from their duties. Deputy chiefs David Colon and Eric Rodriguez were also transferred.

The NYPD chief also confirmed to a local CBS affiliate on Wednesday that in addition to the deputies, a Community Affairs Detective for the 66th Precinct had been put on administrative duties and stripped of his gun and badge.

On Wednesday, the NYPD said in a statement that Deputy Chief Andrew Capul, executive officer patrol borough Manhattan North was transferred and re-assigned to an administrative positing pending further review.

The New York Post reported Capul was question in connection to a trip he took to a Super Bowl.

None of the officers have been criminally charged.

Bratton added that he's ordered traning sessions to address "conflict of interest rules" for everyone who ranked as a captain or higher.

"The potential violations under investigation include violations of NYPD rules and policies, the City conflicts of interest rules and the federal criminal laws," Bratton said. "The investigation is examining the conduct of current and former NYPD officers and several others."

The announcement comes after the New York Post and Associated Press reported that investigation found that some top-ranking NYPD officials accepted free meals, trips, and other benefits in exchange for favors to two prominent businessmen in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community, Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz.

Both men had served on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's inaugural committee in 2013, and made contributions to his campaign.

A subpoena reviewed last year by the AP shows that federal agents had been looking into the relationship between a real estate company run by Rechnitz and a union that represents 9,000 Correction Department officers, the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

Mayor de Blasio addressed questions about his involvement with Reichberg or Rechnitz at an unrelated event on Wednesday.

"Neither of them has contributed to my reelection campaign," he said. "While this investigation is going on we will, of course, not accept any donations."

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook told the New York Post on Monday that he and former NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III traveled to Israel with Rechnitz and Reichberg in 2014.

In return, Seabrook told the Post that he and Banks gifted the businessmen a $5,000 backgammon set "so that nobody could say they bought me the ticket."

In a statement sent to BuzzFeed News, Banks's lawyer, Ben Branfman, said, "It appears that unnamed sources with their own agenda are helping shape recent published stories about Mr. Banks that contain patently false information."

He went on to deny other reports, saying, "Mr. Banks did not retire because he learned that he was the subject of a criminal investigation," and added that all of the money in his bank "can be fully attributed to lawful income earned by either Mr. Banks, his wife, or to a small inheritance Mrs. Banks received after the death of her father."

A spokesperson for Seabrook declined comment to BuzzFeed News.

Other questionable favors include providing police escorts for the businessmen's deliveries, crowd control during Hasidic weddings, and additional security when Torahs are transported, according to the Post. In exchange, high-ranking officers reportedly received gifts including tickets to the Super Bowl and international trips.

A spokesperson for the FBI told BuzzFeed News that the bureau was "not discussing the matter."

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at tamerra.griffin@buzzfeed.com.

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