‘Gangsters in blue’ update: Paterson, NJ sergeant fired, guilty of conspiracy
PATERSON — A now-former city police sergeant who oversaw the illegal activities of five subordinates, all of whom pleaded guilty to corruption charges, was convicted Thursday of conspiracy to deprive persons of their civil rights and falsification of a police report.
Michael Cheff, 51, of Oakland was arrested in early 2020 and, at the time, was the eighth Paterson police officer to be charged in a years-long corruption investigation.
In a release, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said Cheff could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 20 years on the false records charge, with a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.
A sentencing date for Cheff was not immediately announced. The associated officers who previously pleaded guilty, Jonathan Bustios, Daniel Pent, Eudy Ramos, Frank Toledo, and Matthew Torres, are also all awaiting sentencing.
"Michael Cheff was fired yesterday," read a statement Friday from the secretary to Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. "His trial revealed sickening and horrific acts committed by former officers who violated their oath to protect and serve. Paterson has taken significant steps to root out such conduct and prevent it from happening, including ensuring every officer is equipped with a body worn camera, officers are re-trained, and de-escalation is a point of emphasis."
Among the accusations lodged against Cheff and previously reported by New Jersey 101.5 were that Bustios, Ramos, and Torres arrested a victim in November 2017 and were subsequently joined by Cheff at the individual's apartment, where they coerced the person to sign a consent to search form and then removed cash and narcotics from a safe inside the home.
The individual later said the safe contained approximately $2,700, which Cheff was said to have divvied up among the officers. He then filed a report claiming only $319 of the seized money was logged into evidence.
Cheff and the other officers were also alleged to have pulled vehicles over, seemingly without reason, stealing drugs and cash from those they detained in incidents dating back to 2016.
It was previously reported that Ramos had pleaded not guilty to charges against him, but Thursday's release indicated he had since changed his plea.