Sunday, January 09, 2005

Credit cards in Kerik mess

New York Daily News -
Credit cards in Kerik mess
Sunday, January 9th, 2005

An internal NYPD investigation has been launched into possible abuse of department-issued credit cards while Bernard Kerik was police commissioner, the Daily News has learned.

Investigators are poring through Police Headquarters computer data for evidence. Over the Christmas holiday weekend, detectives from the Internal Affairs Bureau seized all the computers from the NYPD office that issues credit cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses and employment IDs under aliases to undercover cops, law enforcement sources said.

The sources say the investigators are studying how the credit cards were used and what they bought from August 2000 to Dec. 31, 2001, while Kerik was police commissioner.

The inquiry marks the third by a city agency involving Kerik's tenure as a city commissioner.

Since Dec. 10, when Kerik withdrew his nomination for U.S. secretary of homeland security citing concerns over an illegal nanny, The News has disclosed ethical lapses involving two simultaneous extramarital affairs, his ties to a mob-linked contracting firm, gifts he failed to disclose while working for the city and questions on renovations to his Riverdale, Bronx, apartment.

As the scandal widened, Kerik quit his lucrative partnership with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm.

The IAB investigators took the equipment from the Confidential Identification section, a small, out-of-the-way office in the Organized Crime Control Bureau on the 12th floor of 1 Police Plaza.

The veteran sergeant who runs the office, Ralph Chartier, was Kerik's supervisor in the Midtown South Precinct when the former police commissioner was a young cop there in the late 1980s.

Chartier has run the office since at least 1997.

Sources said that shortly after Kerik left office, allegations surfaced regarding misuse of the secret credit cards by several detectives who were close to the commissioner.

"If there were allegations back then, I assume they were investigated back then. I can only speculate on the timing of this," said Kerik's attorney, Joseph Tacopina. "We welcome any investigation, because it will separate the smoke and inaccuracies from the facts."

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne declined comment on the matter.

The bills incurred by the various undercover investigators are paid by their divisions - narcotics, for example - and the confidential ID office handles the paperwork.

The limit for most of the cards is between $2,000 and $4,000.

While not directly implicated in the credit-card probe, Kerik is the focus of probes by the city Department of Investigation and the Bronx district attorney's office.

The News disclosed that while he was city correction commissioner, Kerik broke rules on accepting gifts and offered favors to a mob-linked contractor that had hired his brother, Don.

DOI noted that Kerik failed to file a background form when he was appointed police commissioner in 2000, though he had filed one when named correction commissioner two years before that. Under current rules, all commissioners and other high-ranking officials must undergo background checks.

The Bronx district attorney is gathering information about Kerik's purchase and remodeling of two Riverdale apartments in 1999, while he was jails chief. The News reported that the apartments were combined and extensively renovated under building permits filed by a recently indicted contractor and a soon-to-be-indicted engineer. Tacopina has said the building hired the contractor and engineer.

The News disclosed yesterday that book publisher Judith Regan might be forced to testify about an affair she had with the married Kerik in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, Kerik was also involved with correction officer Jeannette Pinero, The News has reported.

Regan's testimony is being sought in a suit filed by a former Correction Department official who claims he was denied a promotion because he disciplined Pinero.