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Inquiry Into Possible Corruption Charges Against the Mount Vernon Police Department and Mayor Richard Thomas’ Conduct Is Seemingly Being Revisited
MOUNT VERNON, NY and NEW YORK, NY — May 15, 2019 — Three Mount Vernon Police officers stole $10,000 from a gym bag filled by F.B.I. agents in the sum of over $31,846 in cash in a blue gym bag placed in the bedroom closet of an apartment located at 30 East Fourth Street in Mount Vernon back in May, 1994. The officers were raiding an apartment in which they believed a fugitive from Florida was holed up. The Mount Vernon officers raided the apartment of a suspect named Victor Osman on May 6, 1994, acting on a tip from Florida authorities working with Federal agents.
The occurrence was captured on videotape from across the street, but was unknown to the officers involved; they were victims of an elaborate F.B.I. sting operation. All three were arrested on Federal corruption charges, including on the charge of stealing Federal funds.
Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, advised that a Federal investigation began about a year prior to engaging the sting operation after authorities received reports of corruption among the 176 members of the Mount Vernon Police Department, which included the included three suspects captured on video. U.S. Attorney White in 1994 did not divulge any details of the allegations or the number of officers investigated at that time. She did however note that, “We did not see a pattern of pervasive corruption in the Mount Vernon Police Department.”
Clyde A. Isley, Mount Vernon Police Commissioner then, and Mount Vernon mayoral candidate today, then said the arrests of the three suspects, two detectives with the department’s Major Case Squad and their supervisor, resulted in a review of all pending cases in which the men were involved. Isely said he did not reassign the men after learning of the corruption allegations because he did not want to jeopardize the Federal investigation.
“This information was shared by myself and the F.B.I. and no one else in the Mount Vernon Police Department,” Commissioner Isley said of the Federal investigation.
The two detectives, James A. Garcia, 46, of The Bronx, and Frank Lauria, 44, of Yonkers were arrested. Robert A. Astorino, 53, the department’s chief of detectives for the last 10 years, was arrested at his home in Yonkers.
Fast forward to 2019 … the incident of 1994 has resuscitated an interest in two blatant issues of concern to which United States Attorney to the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman’s interest has been described by informed sources as piqued. Berman is the latest U.S. Attorney engaged in focusing his attention with respect to the Mount Vernon Police Department. It must however be understood that “discovery” did not start under his watch, it was initiated some 5 years ago.
The catalysts that have caused U.S Attorney Berman is at minimum the following recent issues. When the Yonkers Tribune revealed that Fraida Hickson pleaded guilty to a felony charge over her credit card theft of some $20,000 plus for plastic surgery, she admitted guilt to a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1029 which is equivalent to being convicted after a trial. As such, per New York State Public Officer’s Law §30(1)(e), a suspension from her appointment is not permissible, and her office must be vacated immediately. A suspension with pay, likewise, is wholly improper.
Another concern that piqued U.S. Attorney Berman interest is the conduct of Joseph F. Spiezio, III with respect to being photographed in the article posted by the Yonkers Tribune under the lede: Why Does Mount Vernon Mayor Thomas Engage in One Travesty After Another? By HEZI ARIS
؛The article informs the reader that, former Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio III was forced to step down from his role as Mount Vernon’s Deputy Police Commissioner in the first week of February. It was in fact Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Shawn Harris who “asked for and accepted the retirement of Joseph Spiezio.” Despite the understanding that he had indeed stepped down, Spiezio audaciously did not return the city owned 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe donned with emergency lights and sirens that he drove when he was apprehended in New Rochelle with emergency lights and sirens blaring. Upon the report of that incident, Commissioner Harris said, “Mr. Spiezio’s actions have caused irreparable damage to the department’s integrity, morale and reputation.”
‘So on March 16, 2019, the Yonkers Tribune informed our readers that Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas dismissed Commissioner of Public Safety Shawn Harris on March 13th for betraying his trust by supporting Thomas’ declared mayoral challenger City Council President André Wallace. Yet Thomas’ ire was raised about five weeks earlier when then Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio III was apprehended by New Rochelle Police driving a Mount Vernon-owned SUV in a reckless manner, flashing red lights, and doing so with a suspended driver’s license. Commissioner Shawn advises that should Mr. Spiezio assert that he is acting with approval or authority, or that he is a member of the Mount Vernon Police Department, he will be in violation of New York State Penal Law §190.26, that is, criminal impersonation in the first degree and a criminal complaint will be filed with Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino.”
The photo revealed that Spiezio was wearing a jacket emblazoned with a Mount Vernon Police Department patch. Spiezio is seen talking to two undercover cops, each wearing official police outfits to one extent or another. Spiezio and the two police officers are engaged in conversation next to the campaign headquarters for Mayor Richard Thomas’ re-election campaign effort. The Yonkers Tribune has on Monday and Tuesday requested a call back from Mount Vernon Comptroller Deborah Reynolds. She did not return our inquiry of her. The reason for contacting her was to ascertain if Spiezio was on the off chance either never dismissed in his capacity and title of Deputy Police Commissioner or if he had been re-instated. In Spiezio’s threatening letter addressed by email to this reporter / publisher / editor Hezi Aris, Spiezio invokes the term, “False Article” in the lede: False Article By Joseph F. Spiezio, III.
He does not assert or suggest that he never lost or has regained his capacity or title as Deputy Police Commissioner, nor does he inform or suggest in any manner that he has been re-instated. Unfortunately, Comptroller Reynolds has not returned our inquiry for a call back, and Spiezio has made no such assertion. On the off chance or circumstance that Spiezio never lost his title as Deputy Police Commissioner or been re-instated to that title, he would be entitled to wear the Mount Vernon Police Department jacket. If that is the case, it must be recognized that Spiezio would then be in violation of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state, and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. The law’s purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.