NJ sergeant arrested as FBI corruption probe widens

Sgt. Michael Cheff supervised five former patrol officers who have pleaded guilty to taking money from people they illegally stopped


Anthony G. Attrino
NJ Advance Media Group

PATERSON, N.J. — A Paterson police sergeant was arrested Tuesday as part of an internal affairs and FBI investigation into corruption within the city’s department, authorities said Tuesday.

Sgt. Michael Cheff is the eighth city police officer arrested in the FBI’s corruption probe that began three years ago, Police Director Jerry Speziale said.

“We had a sergeant go into handcuffs today,” Speziale said, calling it a continuation of an internal affairs and FBI investigation.

Cheff is accused of civil rights violations and falsifying police reports, Speziale said.

“We will never accept this as indicative of the hardworking men and women who serve (the Paterson Police Department) with integrity daily,” Speziale said.

The investigation has focused on police officers who allegedly stole thousands in cash from people after illegally stopping and searching their vehicles.

Last year, Officer Daniel Pent admitted to being part of a conspiracy in which the officers routinely illegally stopped residents, both in their vehicles and on the street, and stole money and other items from them.

Cheff, who has been on the job since 1996, was the sergeant who supervised five former patrol officers who have pleaded guilty to taking money from motorists, passengers and other people they illegally stopped.

Cheff has been suspended without pay from his $134,678 city job, officials said.

“We have zero tolerance for crooked cops in the Paterson Police Department,” city Mayor Andre Sayegh said Tuesday. “This should serve as a cautionary tale that crime doesn’t pay, especially in law enforcement.”

The FBI investigation began in 2016 when the city alleged several police officers had engaged in crimes.

Five cops that Cheff supervised — Pent, Jonathan Bustios, Frank Toledo, Eudy Ramos, and Matthew Torres — await sentencing in U.S. District Court in Newark.

The five were accused of using text messages with code words to describe their actions. The word “mango” referred to illegally seizing cash, authorities have said.

In addition, former officer Ruben McAusland pleaded guilty in 2018 to drug dealing and to assaulting a patient in a hospital in an attack. Former officer Roger Then recorded the beating, then falsified reports to cover it up, officials have said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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