Twelve members of the city Sheriff’s Office were suspended without pay on Tuesday for allegedly taking liquor and other goods that had been confiscated from bars and clubs that were raided during the peak of the pandemic for violating shutdown rules, THE CITY has learned.
The accused allegedly stole the seized items from a storage unit in Long Island City, according to a source familiar with a probe handled by the city’s Department of Investigation.
Some of the members are also facing discipline for filing false overtime timesheets, the source said.
Among those suspended are an undersheriff, at least three sergeants, and multiple deputy sheriffs, according to the source.
Four of the people suspended are officials with the New York City Deputy Sheriffs Association, the labor union representing deputy sheriffs, sergeants, lieutenants, and undersheriffs, the source added.
“This serious breach of public trust will not be tolerated and we will not allow it to undermine the hardworking men and women of the Sheriff’s Office and their mission to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Ryan Lavis, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, which oversees the sheriffs.
Eric Lenkowitz, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Investigation, declined to comment citing the “ongoing investigation.”
DOI and the Department of Finance declined to say why the sheriffs were not criminally charged. They all face internal discipline and had their guns and shields removed, the source said.
The city’s top sheriff, Anthony Miranda, declined comment. The probe began before Miranda was appointed last May but supported the takedown to clean house, according to the source.
“I can’t talk about it right now,” Miranda told THE CITY in a phone call Tuesday night.
From Alcohol to Weed
The probe and suspensions regarding the booze busts come as the Sheriff’s Office has taken on a larger role cracking down on smoke shops illicitly selling cannabis.
The union representing deputy sheriffs has questioned their authority to inspect unlicensed cannabis retailers, THE CITY reported in March.
The Sheriff’s Office, which began the inspections in November, has seized more than 600 pounds of marijuana through Jan. 30, according to city officials — with the products including more than 32,000 THC vapes, over 20,000 packets of edibles and nearly 2,000 cartons of cigarettes.
At a public safety press conference on April 14, Miranda said his office had conducted inspections of 235 smoke shops since Mayor Eric Adams created a task force to address the issue last fall. Miranda said his office had since made 55 arrests and issued $4.4 million in civil penalties while seizing close to $12 million in merchandise.
Lavis, the Department of Finance spokesperson, said the agency has “implemented new policies and procedures to prevent a repeat of the alleged incidents.”
He added, “As this is still an internal personnel matter, we are unable to comment more pending further review and investigation.”
Most of the inspections have piggybacked on the Sheriff’s Office’s authority to enforce the state’s cigarette taxation and licensing requirements.
The city’s approximately 130 deputy sheriffs also enforce Civil Court orders and judgments, such as for property seizure, evictions and arrest warrants.
Deputy Sheriff’s Benevolent Association President Ingrid Simonovic declined to comment.