NYPD Officer Charged with Criminal Civil Rights Violation for False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution
Charges Include Attempted Violent Extortion and Attempted Insurance Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 17, 2011|
A criminal complaint was unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging New York City Police Department Officer Michael Daragjati, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, with violating the civil rights of an African-American victim by willfully arresting him and charging him with a crime without probable cause and on false pretenses, and for doing so based on racial animus. Daragjati is also charged with attempting and conspiring to commit violent extortion and committing wire fraud by making false statements to an auto insurance company.* Daragjati was arrested this morning and has an initial appearance scheduled later this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
Willful Violation of Civil Rights Under Color of Law
According to the complaint, during the evening of April 15, 2011, Daragjati stopped and frisked an individual in the Stapleton neighborhood of Staten Island. The stop and frisk revealed that the victim was not carrying a firearm or contraband. After the victim complained about his treatment during the stop and frisk, Daragjati arrested him. The complaint alleges that although the victim did not resist arrest, Daragjati falsely wrote in a police report that the victim had flailed his arms and kicked his legs during the arrest, purportedly justifying a resisting arrest charge. The following day, Daragjati swore out a complaint containing similar false statements, which was filed in Richmond County Criminal Court. As a result, the victim was held in custody for approximately 36 hours.
The day he swore out the complaint, the government intercepted a telephone call between Daragjati and a friend. As detailed in the complaint, while referring to the victim’s arrest and prosecution, Daragjati told the friend that he had “fried another nigger.” The government subsequently intercepted several additional calls during which Daragjati allegedly used the word “nigger” to refer to African-Americans. In other intercepted calls Daragjati stated that he risked getting fired if he was caught “throw[ing] somebody a beating” and complained that it was too easy for police officers to get in trouble. He then admitted that he had been “skating it for a long time.”
Daragjati operated a construction and snow removal business while off-duty. In March 2011, snowplow equipment which belonged to Daragjati was stolen from a truck parked near Daragjati’s residence. According to the complaint, a short time later Daragjati identified a person he believed was the thief and arranged to have him lured to a location in Staten Island. There, Daragjati and a group of other men allegedly attacked the suspected thief, punching him and threatening him with a handgun. Daragjati and the others told the suspected thief that he had to either return the snowplow equipment or pay $5,000 to the equipment’s owner.
The complaint alleges that Daragjati directed a snowplow driver to intentionally damage a truck Daragjati owned, and then falsely represent to the driver’s auto insurer that the damage resulted from an accident while plowing snow. Daragjati also provided a false account to individuals he believed were employed by the driver’s auto insurer in an effort to receive payment from the insurer.
“The power to arrest—to deprive a citizen of liberty—must be used fairly, responsibly, and without bias. Motivated by base racial animus, the defendant allegedly abused this power and responsibility. Our system of justice depends on the public’s confidence that those who enforce the law also obey the law,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This office will vigorously prosecute those who would betray the trust placed in them to uphold the law honestly and without bias.” Ms. Lynch expressed her appreciation to the FBI and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, the agencies responsible for leading the government’s investigation, and thanked the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance.
FBI Assistant Director in-Charge Fedarcyk stated, “As charged in the complaint, this defendant’s egregious conduct caused both direct and indirect harm. He allegedly abused his position as a police officer to arrest someone under false pretenses, and committed fraud and violence. There were direct victims of these crimes. But the charged conduct also threatened to undermine public trust and respect for law enforcement. We who enforce the law are not above the law; in fact, we should be held to a higher standard.”
NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “I want to commend U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch and her staff for bringing this case forward promptly and professionally, and NYPD Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi and his detectives who initiated this investigation and in doing so helped pave the way for prosecuting it.”
If convicted of the civil rights charge, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. If convicted of attempt to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion or wire fraud, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each charge.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Tuchmann, Amy Busa and Cristina Posa.
* The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.