The last of three now-former NYPD cops, all from Long Island, has pleaded guilty in connection with a bribery scheme to direct damaged vehicles to certain tow-truck companies and sell victim information from NYPD databases to personal injury lawyers and physical therapists, according to the local U.S. attorney’s office.
Robert Hassett, 36, of Farmingville, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to a conspiracy to trade bribes for personal information of those involved in car crashes, as well as participating in the scheme with the tow-truck companies, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York.
Jonathan Manley, the lawyer who the U.S. attorney’s office says represents Hassett, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Two other co-conspirators who have since left the NYPD previously pleaded guilty, the release said: Robert Smith, 44, of Plainview, on Wednesday, and Heather Busch, 34, of Massapequa, on Aug. 5. Smith also pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of at least one kilogram of heroin.
The news release said that Smith faces up to 25 years in prison, and Hassett and Busch up to five years.
The three had all worked at the NYPD’s 105th precinct, whose jurisdiction abuts Nassau County.
Under the NYPD’s rules, criteria set by department program determine the tow-truck company to respond to tow a disabled vehicle, not an individual independently, according to the indictment from May, when the three were charged. The identities of the tow-truck company and the recipient of the database listings weren’t disclosed.
The news release said that between 2016 and 2017, Hassett and Smith received thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for sending business to the towing company, contrary to NYPD rules.
“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,” the news release said.
Smith retired from the NYPD in March 2020, and Busch took his place.