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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

Former chief Phil Banks a background character in NYPD saga

The relationship between retired NYPD Chief of Department

The relationship between retired NYPD Chief of Department Phil Banks, above in 2013, and the president of the correction officers union, is being probed, said a person interviewed by investigators. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Former NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks is a behind-the-scenes presence in the corruption scandal involving former correction union boss Norman Seabrook, allegedly crooked Harlem restaurateur Hamlet Peralta, and Brooklyn businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.

Banks’ name does not appear in the 17-page complaint against Seabrook, who was ousted as leader of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association last week after he was charged with fraud.

Rather, hints of Banks’ connection appear in five paragraphs in the complaint. They say Seabrook met Rechnitz in late 2013 through “an NYPD officer.” Sources have identified the NYPD officer as Banks, who retired from the NYPD in November 2014, apparently feeling he had been marginalized when Commissioner Bill Bratton promoted him to first deputy.

The complaint also discloses that the “NYPD officer” made four trips between November 2013 and July 2014 — to the Dominican Republic, Israel and Las Vegas — with Seabrook, Rechnitz and Reichberg.

Banks traveled to Israel in March 2014 and met with Israeli and Palestinian dignitaries, even holding a news conference in police uniform at the Wailing Wall.

On a second trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2013, Banks, Seabrook, Rechnitz and Reichberg were joined by Peralta, who owned the now-closed Hudson River Cafe that was frequented by NYPD brass. In an apparently related case, Peralta was indicted in an alleged $12 million fraud scheme.

Rechnitz paid everyone’s airfare on the four trips. According to the indictment, he was not reimbursed.

Rechnitz pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is a cooperating government witness against Seabrook. Rechnitz and Reichberg were donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose campaign appears to be part of the federal probe. The complaint adds that Rechnitz introduced Seabrook to a hedge-fund friend, Murray Huberfeld, with whom Seabrook invested $20 million of union funds. In return, Huberfeld allegedly paid Seabrook a $60,000 kickback.

All this looks bad for Banks, but has he done anything criminal? To prove criminality, prosecutors need to establish a quid pro quo. Banks’ free trips may have been a quid, but so far we have seen no quo while he was an NYPD member.


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