PATERSON — Michael Cheff, the former Paterson police sergeant convicted for his role in supervising the notorious “robbery squad” of rogue cops, has lost his bid to get his conspiracy conviction overturned.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit did not buy Cheff’s argument that he had not conspired with the five convicted patrol officers he supervised — all of whom testified against him at trial.
Cheff began serving his prison sentence in January at the Gilmer Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia. He is scheduled to be released on Feb. 6, 2025, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Cheff’s lawyer, Geoffrey Rosamond, declined to comment on the appeal court’s ruling. The attorney said no decision has been made on whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
What did the appeals court decision say?
“The evidence in this case was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Cheff was a member of the conspiracy,” the appeals court said in a decision issued last month. “Cheff was the supervisor of the Robbery Squad while its members were committing illegal acts.
“There was a demonstrated level of mutual trust between Cheff and the members, who considered him to be “part of the team” and understood that he would look out for them,” said the appeals court. “Members of the Robbery Squad specifically went to Cheff to get reports signed off instead of their other supervisor. And Cheff accepted cuts of stolen money from patrol officers and maintained an established method of payment with the Robbery Squad.
“Further, Cheff assisted the Robbery Squad in evading the suspicion of Internal Affairs by alerting members when Internal Affairs became suspicious,” the court said. “Cheff contends that he simply had a laissez-faire attitude toward the actions of the Robbery Squad, but that there was no agreement to work toward a common goal. However, evidence of a concerted cover-up suggests that crimes ‘were undertaken as part of an agreement, as opposed to having been random, uncoordinated acts.’”
City files suit for back pay: Paterson seeks $438,000 from ‘robbery squad’ cops
What about the other former Paterson police officers involved?
One of Cheff’s co-conspirators, Matthew Torres, was given probation for his role in the robbery squad crimes, which included shakedowns and beatings of people the officers illegally stopped. Daniel Pent, another cop convicted in the case, completed his prison term on Sept. 22, federal corrections records show.
The city of Paterson has filed a lawsuit against the six crooked cops, seeking reimbursement for the $438,000 in pay they received while being on administrative leave during the time between their initial arrests and convictions.
The judge handling that civil case has determined that five of the criminals — all except Cheff — have defaulted in the litigation, essentially because they did not defend themselves. Lawyers familiar with the case said Torres, Toledo, Bustios, Pent and Ramos likely defaulted because they do not have any savings or other assets that could be seized in the litigation.
Cheff has contested the city’s reimbursement lawsuit. Paterson is trying to recoup $309,054 from him.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: email@example.com
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ police robbery squad sergeant’s appeal rejected