The ongoing – and ever-expanding – corruption investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara into the political machinations of two Brooklyn businessmen and donors to Mayor de Blasio has now expanded to include the leader of Westchester County.
Bharara this week subpoenaed the offices of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino about his active business transactions with de Blasio financial supporters Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who have been ensnared in scandals surrounding bribes to police officials in exchange for personal and communal favors.
Adding to the web of intrigue, FBI agents recently questioned Fernando Mateo, a politically connected advocate for city taxi drivers, who introduced the two businessmen to Astorino, the New York Post reported.
Reichberg, who lives in Brooklyn and was not known to be connected in any way to Westchester County, was designated as a volunteer county police chaplain in June 2013. Just several days later, entities with ties to his friend Rechnitz donated $25,000 to Astorino’s re-election campaign.
According to a knowledgeable source, during a recent session at Mateo’s home, the FBI interrogated him about the businessmen’s dealings with both Astorino and Mayor de Blasio. “The FBI agents wanted to know everything they could about the Astorino relationships with Rechnitz and Reichberg,” the source stated.
Mateo, a leader in the Latin-American community, backed Astorino’s re-election campaign in 2013 and was subsequently appointed to the Westchester County Police Advisory Board. The communal advocate is separately in trouble after conceding to the Post that he clandestinely bundled campaign money to the de Blasio campaign through a Brooklyn woman.
Astorino readily acknowledged that his office has been inundated with subpoenas from Bharara’s office. “Yes. Informational subpoenas were issued to the county executive, the county police, and the county itself,” confirmed Astorino spokesman Bill O’Reilly, “which is no surprise given the need to get all available background in an investigation involving so many city figures. Everything requested was turned over in a timely manner, and we’re happy to be helpful in any way going forward.”
Although Astorino insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, he is surely not happy to know that the US Attorney’s staff is searching for improprieties in Westchester.
After losing the GOP bid for governor to Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo in 2014, Astorino is considering another run for the statewide ofice in 2018.
Reichberg has been indicted in a scandal, wherein he allegedly lavished police officers with money, free trips and even a high-end professional female escort.
Rechnitz has taken on the role of government cooperator in the case that has damaged the careers of numerous high-ranking police officers, and is believed to be the worst corruption scandal within the NYPD in decades. Four officers have been hit with charges so far.
After pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge, Rechnitz has agreed to cooperate in a separate bribery case against former city correction union president Norman Seabrook.