Paterson Police Sergeant Charged With Conspiracy To Violate Civil Rights And Filing False Police Report
NEWARK, N.J. – A federal grand jury today charged a sergeant with the Paterson Police Department with conspiring with other officers to violate individuals’ civil rights, and submitting a false police report to conceal their illegal activity, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Sergeant Michael Cheff, 49, of Paterson, New Jersey, was charged in a two-count indictment with conspiring to deprive individuals of civil rights under color of law and with falsifying a police report. Cheff was previously charged by criminal complaint in January 2020. He will be arraigned in federal court on a date to be determined.
According to documents filed in this and other cases, and statements made in court:
Eudy Ramos, Daniel Pent, Jonathan Bustios, Matthew Torres, and Frank Toledo were police officers with the Paterson Police Department. Cheff supervised their activities and approved their reports and other paperwork related to arrests and seizures of money, narcotics, and firearms. Ramos, Pent, Bustios, Torres, and Toledo, while on official duty, violated the civil rights of individuals in Paterson. They stopped and searched motor vehicles without any justification and stole cash and other items from the occupants. They also illegally stopped and searched individuals in buildings or on the streets of Paterson and seized cash from them. They concealed their activities by submitting to Cheff false reports that omitted, or lied about, their illegal activities. Cheff signed off on those false police reports, and routinely received a portion of these stolen monies from some of these officers. In 2016, Cheff told one of the officers to start “tagging,” or logging into evidence, some of the money that the officer was stealing, because effecting narcotics arrests without logging money into evidence would otherwise raise questions.
On Nov. 14, 2017, Cheff joined Bustios, Ramos, and Torres in stealing cash from an apartment in Paterson. Bustios, Ramos, and Torres stopped and arrested an individual in Paterson. Bustios stole a few hundred dollars from the individual during the arrest, then the officers went to the individual’s apartment, and were joined by Cheff. Torres stayed behind to guard the arrested individual, who was handcuffed in a police car, while Cheff, Ramos, and Bustios obtained consent to search the apartment by lying to the individual’s mother.
Cheff, Ramos, and Bustios then searched the individual’s room. Cheff located a safe inside a closet in the room and took money and narcotics from the safe. He handed a small portion of the money to Bustios and told Bustios to log it into evidence. Cheff put the rest of the money in his pocket. After the search, in a bathroom at the Paterson police station, Cheff gave Torres and Ramos a portion of the stolen money. Cheff also approved a police report that falsely stated that the officers had recovered $319 from on top of a shelf in the individual’s room.
Later that day, Bustios and Toledo exchanged text messages discussing Cheff’s theft of money. Bustios said, among other things, that Cheff “got us for over a stack today,” that “there was a safe” and that Cheff “grabbed the cash.” According to the individual whose apartment was searched, the safe contained approximately $2,700, and all of it was missing after the search was completed.
The conspiracy to violate civil rights charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The false records charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each count is $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. He also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale and Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora, and the Paterson Police Department Office of Internal Affairs for their assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee M. Cortes Jr., Chief of the Health Care Fraud Unit.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: John Lynch Esq., Union City