Whistleblower Dishes on NYPD Turning Blind Eye to Drugs and Hookers

Soon after Sgt. Steven Lee was assigned to the 109th Precinct in Queens, he realized some of the cops there were oddly protective of “the karaokes.”

These gaudy nightclubs of neon and mirrors, clustered on, and just off, Northern and College Point boulevards, offered pay-by-the-hour private rooms where tipsy patrons, mostly Chinese and Korean, could shout along to a karaoke machine.

Drugs and women were also allegedly for sale, if you knew whom to ask.

“If you go out and try to summons somebody by one of the karaokes, you’ll hear from the lieutenant, or the detectives, or the other cops,” Lee says he noticed.

“They go, like, ‘Yo, leave that place alone. Do the right thing,’ ” he says. “Everybody in the 109 — and some from other commands — kind of knew about it. They knew what was going on.”

It was 2013, and Lee had just been transferred to Flushing after eight years at a precinct in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush.

Every precinct has cliques, and the 109 was no different. The Asian cops had a clique, led by Lt. Robert Sung, then 47, a wiry veteran with 20 years under his belt, who seemed to have a particular interest in the karaokes.

Sharing this interest was Sung’s right-hand man, Detective Yatyu Yam, then 34, a liaison to the Chinese community.

The two would stick their noses in anytime a 109 cop arrested someone in or around the karaoke clubs, or anytime vice or narcotics cops from outside the precinct made an arrest there.

“Sometimes we would do inspections, or we’d get a job, a 911 call to that area, and we’ll go to that location, and the cops would come up to you and say, ‘Hey, be careful. This is Sung’s place,’ ” Lee told The Post.

“And you’d be like, ‘What do you mean?’ And they’d say, ‘Sung hangs out here, so just be on your toes, or he’s going to f–k with you.’”

Lee quickly learned to look the other way and became a “conditions sergeant,” tasked with policing the karaokes and nightclubs. He answered directly to Sung.

“People had ideas that something shady was going on,” Lee says now. “But everybody turned a blind eye.”

“We have a saying — you put on your blinders,” he says.

In summer 2013, Lee says, Sung took him aside and confided in him something terrifying. There was a new commanding officer at the 109 — Thomas Conforti, a straight arrow who didn’t play along.

How about, the lieutenant suggested, we get one of the karaoke club hookers to frame Conforti for rape?

“We need to get rid of this guy,” Sung allegedly told him.

That’s the moment, Lee says, when the blinders fell from his eyes — when he decided to stand up for what is right, first as a wire-wearing, NYPD Internal Affairs anti-corruption informant, and later as a whistleblower against Internal Affairs itself.

Sung, Yam and the hookers of the karaokes were already in league, as Lee would find out while going undercover for Internal Affairs.

They’re known as “PRs,” for “public relations girls,” Lee explains of the pretty, flirty Asian women who greeted male customers in some of the seedier karaokes.

His life would never be the same.

Some of them had Yam’s cellphone number, and they’d call him if they wanted help with a customer off-site, Lee says.

“After they have sex for $300, she’ll change the price and be like, ‘Oh, you owe me $700. And the guy would be like, ‘No, $300.’ And she’d be like, ‘No, you’re going to give me $700 or I’m going to call the cops and say you raped me and robbed me.’ ”

It was the PR girls that Sung thought of first, when he plotted to get rid of Conforti, says Lee.
“I was like, ‘What are you thinking?’ ” Lee remembers asking his boss, as they drove to a pizzeria on 162nd Street off Northern Boulevard. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you know, have one of the girls from the karaokes claim that he raped her.’

“I’m like, ‘OK.’ I played along with it. But I’m not cool with that. That immediately struck me. That’s going way too far. That’s wrong.

“You see Conforti coming to the precinct with his wife, his kid, and he’s a stand-up guy. So even if there’s a false allegation like that, and even if he wins that false allegation, his wife and his family is always going to see him in that light. It’s always going to tarnish him.”

Lee told Conforti.

A week later, Conforti called Lee into his office. Would Lee be willing to work with Internal Affairs, get Sung on a digital recording trying to frame him for rape?

“All right,” Lee answered. “Fine. I’ll do it.”

Next followed several days of meeting in secret with his new Internal Affairs handlers, Lt. William Seeger and Sgt. Darrell Owens.

“They come to my house three, four times,” once with a higher-up, Lee remembers.

Lee learned to work various recording devices, signed some paperwork, and started hanging out with Sung drinking in the karaokes after work.

‘The NYPD told the feds, “We’ll take care of it, we could police ourselves.” That’s the biggest laughable joke out there. That’s like the fox saying he’ll watch the henhouse.’
Before long, Lee produced recordings filled with apparent corruption — and he continued to do so for the next year and a half.

He’d be introduced around the table. “They’re like, ‘This is so-and-so, he works with the chief,’ ” meaning then-Deputy Chief Diana Pizzuti, commander of Patrol Borough Queens North.

“This is so-and-so,” he’d be told. “He works vice, or narcotics. A lot are coming from outside the 109. There’s a lot of people, and it’s not just cops and sergeants and lieutenants — it’s higher-ups, too.”

They’d all drink free Tsingtaos and Hennessy. The “girls” were free, too.

Lee gave Internal Affairs all of this and more — describing a whole network of cop-protected karaokes, two of the biggest run by the notorious Jimmy Li.

“Jimmy, he’ll come in and go up to one of the girls and be like, ‘Hey, this is lieutenant so-and-so. You take good care of him.’ ”

Lee learned that Jimmy Li would pay Sung and Yam a regular stipend, thousands of dollars a month.

In return, Li would get a heads-up on upcoming drug or narcotics raids or DWI checkpoints. He would get favored treatment if his customers or workers were arrested.

“I’m like, listen,” Lee says he told Internal Affairs. “There’s a whole can of worms with this.”

Don’t worry, Lee says his handlers would tell him. Stick to the rape frame-up. Don’t get into anything else.

For full story visit: https://nypost.com/2018/03/26/whistleblower-dishes-on-nypd-turning-blind-eye-to-drugs-hookers/

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 4682 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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