Three NYPD officers were arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges, including an “unabashedly racist” cop who bragged about menacing Black people and expressed interest in the Ku Klux Klan, according to prosecutors.
The indictment details a series of escalating criminal behavior by Robert Smith, a longtime officer in eastern Queens who left the department last March. Beginning in 2016, the filing states, Smith, 44, and his partner Robert Hassett, 36, used their police powers to steer vehicles damaged in crashes to a specific towing company, in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash bribes.
The scheme expanded in early 2020, prosecutors allege, with the officers collecting crash victims’ information from the NYPD’s accident database, giving it to an unnamed individual who sold it to physical therapists and injury attorneys.
Shortly before Smith retired, he recruited Officer Heather Busch, a current officer in the 105th precinct, to take over the towing scheme, prosecutors said. Busch, 34, is accused of accepting bribes for that work beginning last March, just weeks after she was praised by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea for her efforts in the community.
As the corruption in the 105th continued, Smith was offering his services to a group of men he believed to be drug dealers, according to feds.
In one meeting with the undercover officers, Smith allegedly “bragged that he could carry a firearm and retired NYPD identification documents during his transportation of illegal narcotics.” He was given a kilogram of what he believed to be heroin, which he dropped off at a Queens home, according to prosecutors.
Throughout the course of the investigation, prosecutors said, Smith also bragged about wielding power over Black individuals, while making glowing references to the KKK.
“Bro I point my gun out the window now at n—ers and watch their reaction and drive away. Hilarious,” he allegedly wrote in one text message. In another message, shortly after his retirement, he allegedly boasted, “Now the real [S]mith will shine. I even shaved my head. Klan.”
City records show that Smith was the subject of 14 misconduct complaints as an NYPD officer, including one complaint that was substantiated for using offensive language against a Black woman. He received formalized training as a result of that charge.
Prosecutors are seeking pre-trial detention for Smith, describing his alleged abuse of power and repeated threats to terrorize individuals as a “clear danger” to the community.They are also asking for bond on Busch and Hassett. Gothamist’s attempt to reach an attorney for the defendants was unsuccessful.
They are expected to be arraigned on Tuesday afternoon.