Sergeant Michael Cheff, with the Paterson Police Department, was arrested by the FBI in a scandal that, including his arrest, has netted eight officers. The New Jersey sergeant was stealing drug money from individuals and splitting the money up between him and the small group of officers he supervised. Once they got a taste for the scam, it began to grow. The officers began conducting illegal searches and used threats and intimidation to give them further access to people’s property, allowing them to steal more money.
Sergeant Gives Instructions on How to be a Criminal
Sgt. Cheff cautioned his officers to always turn in some money with a narcotics bust or it would raise a red flag. In one instance, they pulled over a man and stole money from him then arrested him and drove him to his house. Once there they talked his mother into letting them search the house. When they found a safe they must have made the man open it. They took the drugs and money that were inside. The drugs were turned in along with $319. However, the man who has become a witness for the FBI, said there was about $2,700 in the safe. The NPR article doesn’t say how much was stolen from the man when they first made contact with him.
Officers Get Overconfident
Apparently they felt the scam was working well for them and that they were covering all bases. And like so many other criminals, they became over confident. They began text messaging about what they were doing giving the FBI concrete evidence to use against them. One officers wrote the following text messages, “Cheff got us for over a stack today. He grabbed the cash … gave me $139 … then $160 later lol,” and “Everybody’s car is getting searched and everyone is getting asked if we can search their car. And threaten to lock up their momma if they don’t let us search their house lmao.”
Five of the officers who were in on Cheff’s scam have accepted plea agreements and are cooperating with the FBI on the investigation. The officers will be charged for illegally searching vehicles and stealing money. They will be sentenced in federal court this month. Michel Cheff was arrested on federal charges of Civil Rights Violation and Falsification of Records. There is a link in the NPR article that allows you to view the full criminal complaint.