Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Robert Hassett, a former New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officer, pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in a scheme to sell the personal information of automobile accident victims in exchange for bribes (the “Victim Database Scheme”). Hassett also admitted that he participated in a scheme to steer vehicles damaged in automobile accidents to a tow truck company in contravention of NYPD’s Direct Accident Response Program (“DARP”) in exchange for bribes (the “Tow Truck Scheme”).
On August 5, 2021, former NYPD officer Heather Busch pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection with her participation in the Tow Truck Scheme. On October 6, 2021, a third defendant, retired NYPD officer Robert Smith, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection with his participation in the Tow Truck Scheme; Smith also pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of at least one kilogram of heroin. As part of his plea, Smith also admitted that he participated with Hassett in the Victim Database Scheme. At the time that they participated in the Tow Truck Scheme and the Victim Database Scheme, the defendants were NYPD officers assigned to the 105th Precinct in Queens, New York.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, NYPD, announced the guilty pleas.
“The defendants’ guilty pleas to accepting bribes are also acknowledgements that they abused the public trust and dishonored the NYPD by their actions,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kasulis. “This Office will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute corrupt police officers.”
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.
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.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan C. Harris and Nicholas J. Moscow are in charge of the prosecution.
Massapequa, New York
Farmingville, New York
Plainview, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-254 (RPK)
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Eastern District of New York