Accused of stealing money and drugs from suspects, a police sergeant was arrested Tuesday and charged with conspiring to violate the civil rights of an individual and with falsifying a corresponding police report. The police sergeant is the eighth Paterson police officer caught within an FBI corruption probe in which seven other officers have already entered guilty pleas.
While Paterson police officers Jonathan Bustios, Daniel Pent, Eudy Ramos, Frank Toledo, and Matthew Torres were pulling over suspects for no reason and robbing them, Sgt. Michael Cheff allegedly received a portion of stolen monies from some of these officers and signed off on corresponding false police reports about the underlying incidents. In 2016, Cheff told one of the officers to start “tagging,” or logging into evidence, some of the money that the officer was stealing, because effecting narcotics arrests without logging money into evidence would otherwise raise questions.
On November 14, 2017, three Paterson cops illegally searched a vehicle and stole a few hundred dollars from the victim, who was already handcuffed and placed under arrest. According to the criminal complaint, the officers drove to the victim to his apartment and waited for Sgt. Cheff to arrive.
Cheff obtained consent to search the apartment by lying to the individual’s mother and gained access to a safe in his room. He allegedly stole $2,700 from the safe and only gave a couple hundred dollars to the other officers.
While keeping most of the stolen money, Cheff “tagged” $319 into evidence. The police sergeant signed and approved an incident report that did not mention the safe while falsely claiming that the $319 was found on a shelf in the individual’s room.
The report also neglected to mention that the officers stole $300 from the victim’s coat. In text messages to each other later that day, one of the corrupt cops wrote, “Cheff got us for over a stack today.”
On Tuesday, Cheff was arrested and charged with one count of conspiracy to deprive a person of civil rights and one count of falsification of record. He was released on $100,000 bail.
“We have zero tolerance for crooked cops in the Paterson Police Department,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said, referring to Cheff’s arrest. “This should serve as a cautionary tale that crime doesn’t pay, especially in law enforcement.”
“This is part of the ongoing investigation discovered by the Paterson police internal affairs,” stated Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale. “This is not indicative of the hardworking men and women that serve with integrity daily.”
Bustios, Pent, Ramos, Toledo, and Torres have previously entered guilty pleas for their participation in illegally pulling over cars and stealing from the occupants. Although the officers in Cheff’s criminal complaint are not identified, many of these officers now appear to be working with prosecutors against Cheff.
Last year, officers Ruben McAusland and Roger Then were sentenced to prison for various crimes, including assaulting a hospital patient on video along with stealing marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine from crime scenes with the intent to illegally sell the narcotics. Cheff is now the eighth officer arrested in the FBI corruption probe into the Paterson Police Department.
The conspiracy to violate civil rights charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for Cheff. The false records charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each count is $250,000.
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