NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- A federal lawsuit was filed in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday alleging that the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau issues "fraudulent," warrant-less subpoenas in order to investigate police officers and to prevent leaks to the media.
The suit was filed by Efrain Santiago, a former officer.
According to the suit, the subpoenas violate officers’ constitutional right to privacy, are a part of a broad pattern in the department, and are issued without a warrant or a signature by a judge.
It also states that subpoenas have been used to target journalists when the department has attempted to plug leaks to the press.
Santiago’s lawyer, John Scola, said the subpoenas have no "real teeth", but are designed to look like judge-approved documents.
"On its face, it looks like a subpoena you’d get from a judge," Scola said. "That’s not a real subpoena, because it has to be signed by a judge. It has no real teeth."
Santiago also claims his phone records were fraudulently obtained by internal affairs while he was being investigated for doing side work as a chauffeur for a man named Edwin Roa.
The suit states that unbeknownst to Santiago, Roa was a parolee with a criminal history at the time he started working for him in 2012.
Santiago was charged by the NYPD in 2014 for associating with a felon and according to the suit, he was forced, following a departmental trial, to accept 40 days of docked pay.
In 2015, the department again brought Santiago up on charges for allegedly lying about contacting Roa and for associating with a felon. It was then when investigators obtained his phone records through an allegedly fraudulent subpoena.
During a 2018 meeting with internal affairs, Santiago learned that one of the "fraudulent" subpoenas sent to get his phone records was how investigators knew about phone calls he had with Roa.
The suit notes that the department "mislead the recipients of these fraudulent subpoenas in an effort to strong arm the recipient into turning over the records."
Santiago added that the subpoena for his phone records was issued "under the guise of criminal investigation," which, Santiago claimed was untrue.
He argues that he was calling Roa to attempt to recoup a vehicle he used for the chauffeur business and to ask for money owed to him by that Roa for work he had done.
Santiago also claims he was unfairly punished by the department because of his race.
"I have never done anything that warranted such investigation and treatment," Santiago said in a statement.
"What hurts most, is that I was penalized much more severely and treated with a level of disdain that white cops are not. They are allowed to continue with their careers, enjoying their financial wealth, while minority cops are forced to suffer," Santiago added.
Santiago seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial.
"Any assertion that the NYPD uses fake documents to elicit information it can legally obtain through long-established and legally accepted avenues is baseless," DCPI Spokesperson Sergeant Jessica McRorie said. "That said, we will review the lawsuit if and when we are served."