A federal grand jury indicted police sergeant Michael Cheff on Thursday for his alleged role in supervising five rogue police officers in their unjustified search of people’s vehicles and homes to confiscate cash.
Cheff, 49, of Paterson, was formally charged with conspiracy to deprive individuals of civil rights under color of law and with falsifying a police report. He was charged by criminal complaint last month.
Authorities said Cheff allegedly supervised the criminal activities of police officers Eudy Ramos, Daniel Pent, Jonathan Bustios, Matthew Torres, and Frank Toledo. He approved their reports and other paper works for arrests, seizures of cash, drugs, and firearms.
Ramos, Pent, Bustios, Torres, and Toledo conducted unjustified motor vehicle stops to steal cash and other items from occupants. They also searched people in buildings and on the streets of Paterson to steal cash. Authorities said the rogue officers hid their activities by submitting false reports to Cheff that he signed off on.
Cheff allegedly received a portion of the stolen monies from the five officers. He also allegedly advised the officers. For example, in 2016, Cheff allegedly told one officer to start “tagging” or logging into evidence some money in drug arrests to avoid raising questions.
On Nov. 14, 2017, Cheff joined Bustios, Ramos, and Torres to steal cash from an apartment, authorities said. Bustios handcuffed the driver and stole a few hundred dollars. Then the officers went to the victim’s apartment. Cheff joined them in the apartment. Torres remained behind to guard the person handcuffed in a police car.
Cheff, Ramos, and Bustios obtained consent to search the apartment by lying to the person’s mother, authorities said. Inside the apartment, in the victim’s room, Cheff located a safe that contained $2,700. Cheff removed the cash and drugs from the safe. He handed a small portion of the cash to Bustios and put the rest in his pocket. After the search, Cheff met Torres and Ramos in a bathroom at the police headquarters and gave them a portion of the stolen money.
Cheff approved a police report that falsely stated only $319 was recovered on top of a shelf in the victim’s room.
Later in the day, Bustios and Toledo exchanged text messages discussing Cheff’s theft of the cash. Bustios in a text said Cheff “got us for over a stack today” from the safe and that Cheff “grabbed the cash.”
Cheff faces 30 years in federal prison if convicted on both counts.
The FBI arrested eight police officers in its corruption probe at the Paterson police force. All have pleaded guilty except for Cheff. Two officers, Ruben McAusland and Roger Then, were sentenced last year.