NEWARK, N.J. – A federal jury convicted a Paterson Police Department sergeant today of conspiring to violate civil rights and filing a false police report, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Michael Cheff, 51, of Oakland, New Jersey, was convicted following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden on one count of conspiracy to deprive persons of civil rights and one count of falsification of a police report.
According to documents filed in this case and evidence at trial:
Eudy Ramos, Daniel Pent, Jonathan Bustios, Matthew Torres, and Frank Toledo were police officers with the Paterson Police Department. Cheff, who was a sergeant, 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 falsified, 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.
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. The officers went to the individual’s apartment and were joined by Cheff. After the arrested individual was coerced to sign a consent to search form, and while the arrested individual was handcuffed in a police car, Cheff, Bustios, and Ramos went to search the individual’s apartment. After obtaining consent to search the apartment by lying to the individual’s mother, Cheff, Bustios, and Ramos then searched the individual’s room and located a safe inside the room. Cheff took money and narcotics from the safe and put the money in his pocket. Cheff handed a small portion of the money stolen from the safe to Bustios and told Bustios to log it into evidence. 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. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date. Ramos, Pent, Bustios, Torres, and Toledo previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Messenger in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s conviction. He also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, for its assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jihee G. Suh, Deputy Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Kearney of the Special Prosecutions Division.