Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Robert T. Johnson, the District Attorney for Bronx County, George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and William J. Bratton, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the arrest of JOHN L. MONTANEZ, a police officer with the NYPD, on charges of access device fraud, mail fraud, and identity theft. MONTANEZ was arrested this morning at his residence in the Bronx, New York, and presented this afternoon in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Police Officer John Montanez not only violated his oath to uphold the law, but actively broke it when he himself engaged in fraud and identity theft. Corruption undermines the public’s confidence in law enforcement, particularly so when a police officer, out of greed, allegedly uses his position of authority not to stop crime, but to help commit more crime. I want to thank our partners at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the NYPD for their work in this important case.”
Bronx County District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said: “Police officers are sworn to uphold the laws, and it is most disturbing when those whose purpose is to combat crime instead engage in identity theft that not only victimizes the public, but also their fellow officers. This office will continue to work to prosecute these crimes with all due diligence.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “As a police officer Mr. Montanez was charged with enforcing the law. He was also rightfully expected to abide by the very laws he enforced. Today’s complaint tells a different story. We’ll continue to work with the New York City Police Department to investigate corruption wherever we find it.”
NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton said: “These charges evidence not only a significant breach of trust and abuse of authority but also serious criminal conduct on the part of a public servant. I commend the well-coordinated efforts of the federal and state prosecutors, the FBI and our Internal Affairs Bureau in developing this case.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
In 2011, an individual, who subsequently agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, and who is referred to in the Complaint as the “CW,” informed MONTANEZ that the CW had a suspended and/or revoked driver’s license. In response, MONTANEZ offered to provide the CW with the name and driver’s license number of a real person – so that if the CW were stopped by law enforcement, the CW could pretend to be someone else – in return for electronic items that the CW would purchase for MONTANEZ with fraudulently obtained or stolen credit cards. After that, in return for the CW purchasing merchandise for MONTANEZ, and providing to MONTANEZ credit card/debit card numbers that MONTANEZ understood were stolen or fraudulently obtained, MONTANEZ provided to the CW multiple names, dates of birth, and driver’s license identification numbers of other people. One such person, referred to in the Complaint as “Victim-1,” was a fellow police officer with the NYPD, serving in the same precinct as MONTANEZ.
The CW was arrested in June of 2013 and later began recording meetings with MONTANEZ in connection with the CW’s cooperation with law enforcement. During these meetings, MONTANEZ offered to provide additional identities to the CW in return for merchandise purchased with credit cards that MONTANEZ believed that the CW had stolen or fraudulently obtained. In one recorded meeting between the CW and MONTANEZ, MONTANEZ explained to the CW that the CW should feel comfortable pretending to be Victim-1, stating, “It’s the best, cleanest, guaranteed name you can ever have.” In another consensually-recorded meeting between the CW and MONTANEZ, in connection with discussing the CW looking to obtain from MONTANEZ additional names and/or personal identification information of other persons, MONTANEZ stated, “I can go into the precinct in plain clothes. It’s going to take me a couple of minutes. I can go inside, and do whatever.” During one consensually-recorded meeting, MONTANEZ also stated: “I’m not the cop you think I am. I am a piece of s***.”
MONTANEZ, 28, is charged with one count of access device fraud, one count of mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces a maximum sentence of 32 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of two years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau. Mr. Bharara noted that the investigation is ongoing.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Richenthal is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.