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Evidentiary Photo Album: Deputy Mayor Phil Banks’s 2014 Trip to Israel

Three convicted co-conspirators, one unindicted co-conspirator, and memories to last a lifetime.

12:06 PM EST on December 21, 2023

(US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York evidence from USA v. Grant et al.)

For the next couple weeks, we're highlighting some of the information in Hell Gate's freshly launched Eric Adams Table of Success, pulling material from particularly notable entries, like this photo album of Deputy Mayor Phil Banks III's trip to Israel, entered into evidence in a federal corruption trial. To read the full entry on Banks, and to browse more connections to the mayor, head over to the table.

Phil Banks III is Eric Adams's deputy mayor for public safety, overseeing everything from the Fire Department to the jails on Rikers Island and helping the mayor run the NYPD. Banks reportedly interviewed candidates for NYPD commissioner before Adams took office, and then, by some accounts, functioned as a sort of shadow commissioner himself, meeting with top brass without the actual commissioner, whose authority was reportedly undermined.

Before he was deputy mayor, back in 2014, Banks was the NYPD Chief of Department, the highest uniformed position in the whole police force, and on a short list to become NYPD commissioner.

In between these two titles, Banks earned another appellation: Unindicted co-conspirator. The story of Banks's entanglement with two Brooklyn businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who were ultimately convicted on federal bribery charges, is long and complicated, and to get more of the story you should read his entry in Hell Gate's Table of Success. Suffice it to say that Banks was never indicted, and he denies any wrongdoing, but when called to testify he told the court he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Banks said he didn't do any official favors for Rechnitz and Reichberg, though Reichberg testified that after lobbying Banks to promote another police officer they were cultivating, the cop got the promotion and Banks let the businessmen be the ones to tell the freshly promoted officer the good news.

Less contested is whether the businessmen did anything for Banks. They did. Evidence gathered in the investigation showed they bought expensive dinners for Banks on a weekly basis, gave him a handsome return on an investment, flew him and his friend  Norman Seabrook, the former head of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, (later convicted on corruption charges in one of the trials resulting from this federal investigation) on golf trips to the Dominican Republic twice, and also took them both on a trip to Israel.

This last gift is memorialized in a photo book one of the businessmen gifted to Banks, which was seized during the investigation and made its way into evidence in one of the corruption trials that resulted. 

Some of these photographs have been published before, but some have not. Taken together, the pictures function as a sort of travel brochure for the experience you might enjoy if you are the top uniformed police officer in the NYPD and two corrupt businessmen attempting to buy influence with the NYPD take you on a trip to Israel.

All photos are from a souvenir book credited to "JR Productions, Inc.," and included as prosecution evidence in the trial in which Reichberg was found guilty on conspiracy and bribery charges. Let's take a look:

Day 1: You've arrived! Welcome to Jerusalem. Take in a vista of the city at sunset from the Temple Mount.

Have a drink with friends.

That's right. Take it in.

Day 2: Stroll the Arab marketplace.

Pray in the Holy Church of the Sepulchre.

Check out a local jewelry store.

Take a picture with your hosts!

Visit the Wailing Wall.

Stroll the shouk.

Sample some flatbread from straight out of the oven!

Brandish rifles and enjoy some light Israeli weapons training.

(There's video of this too:)

Travel's fun, but it can be tiring! Catch forty winks after dinner.

Frolic like a happy porpoise in the Dead Sea.

(US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York evidence from USA v. Grant et al.)

Smear yourself with mud.

Cigar break.

Dine with the former director of Mossad.

Visit an Israeli Air Force base and check out some F-16s.

Okay, this isn't Banks, it's Seabrook, but these are interesting.

Anyway, back to the F-16s: Hell Gate recommends that you play this music while looking at the next two pictures.

Time for some ice cream!

And then some boating.

And another cigar.

This trip looks awesome! And while it may have come at a cost, given Banks's abrupt resignation from the NYPD after the people who paid for his trip came under investigation, he hasn't let that stop him. Eight years after being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the men who took him on this trip, he's Deputy Mayor of the City of New York.

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