Another Paterson officer facing charges in corruption probe

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — Another officer with a northern New Jersey police department was arrested Tuesday as part of an ongoing federal corruption probe.

Paterson police Sgt. Michael Cheff is the eighth city officer arrested in the probe that began three years ago. He faces single counts of conspiracy to deprive civil rights and falsifying a report. The latter charge is the more serious and carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

The corruption investigation has focused on police officers who allegedly stole thousands in cash from people after illegally stopping and searching their vehicles.

A phone message was left Tuesday with an attorney representing Cheff.

Cheff, who has served on the force since 1996, supervised five former patrol officers who have pleaded guilty in the probe. Cheff has been suspended without pay.

According to some of the officers who provided information to investigators, Cheff accepted some of the money they seized during traffic stops and later signed off on reports he knew to be false.

During one incident in November 2017, according to the complaint, two officers said they watched Cheff take money and narcotics out of a safe inside the apartment of a man they had arrested shortly before. Both officers told investigators that Cheff gave them some of the money to place into evidence and kept the rest, and later gave them a portion. Cheff allegedly signed off on the incident report, which didn't mention a safe or the total amount of money, which the victim estimated at as much as $2,700.

“It is deeply troubling when an officer who has sworn to uphold the law violates his oath and uses his badge as a license to commit a crime,” Gregory W. Ehrie, the head of the FBI's Newark division, said. ”It is doubly so when that officer not only supervises others who are engaging in illegal activity but also, as these charges allege, participates."