Three New York City Police Department detectives were charged Monday with the theft of nearly $3,000 worth of champagne from a VIP area at a popular electronic dance music festival, where they had been ordered to stop drug-related activity.
Two of the three, Jonathan Gonzalez and Wojciech Czech, are charged with stealing expensive bottles of “Ace of Spades” Champagne at the Electric Zoo festival on Randall’s Island last fall, according to court documents. The third, Warren Golden, is accused of failing to stop them.
“Public trust in the criminal justice system depends on members of law enforcement acting with the utmost integrity while on duty and following the same rules that apply to everyone,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg said in a statement.
As court documents show, the detectives were part of a narcotics enforcement detail on Sept. 3 during last year’s version of the annual festival, which draws tens of thousands of electronic dance music fans and dozens of top acts over several days.
According to court documents, the detectives were stationed in a VIP area where people at a table had ordered bottles of champagne, officially named Armand de Brignac, but more commonly known as Ace of Spades because of its logo. (The brand is owned by Jay-Z and French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.)
At one point, the people who had ordered the champagne stepped away, and Detective Gonzalez took two of their unopened bottles and placed them on another table near where he, Detective Czech and Detective Golden had been standing, according to court documents. The bottles had a combined value of $2,900, the district attorney’s office said.
Detective Gonzalez then grabbed a backpack, returned to the table and put the bottles in the backpack after Detective Czech handed them over to him, court documents say. One of the people who ordered the champagne saw what happened, and when he and the rest of his group returned to their table, detectives quickly left the area, court documents say.
With the backpack in tow, court documents show, the detectives attempted to enter a confined staff-only area, where a festival security guard stopped them. Detective Gonzalez identified himself as a police officer and insisted that he and his colleagues be allowed through, court documents say.
The people who had ordered the champagne confronted the detectives in front of the security officer, who removed the bottles from the backpack, returned them to their owners and contacted his employer, who in turn contacted the police, the court said. documents.
Detectives Gonzalez and Czech were arrested on Monday, police said. They are charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, both felonies, according to a press release from Mr. Bragg’s office. Detective Gonzalez is also charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor, as is Detective Golden, the release says.
The allegations stemmed from a joint investigation by the prosecutor’s office and the police’s home affairs office. The department said in a statement that Detective Gonzalez, 33, and Detective Czech, 44, had been suspended and that police officials would “initiate further discipline if necessary.”
Detective Gonzalez and Detective Czech pleaded not guilty to charges Monday. Detective Golden, 31, will be arraigned later this week.
Oliver Storch, a lawyer for Detective Czech, said his client was “appalled” by the allegations. “We ask the public not to pass judgment until these allegations can be dealt with in the proper forum,” he said.
Peter Brill, a lawyer for Detective Gonzalez, said his client would eventually be acquitted of the charges, accusing Mr Bragg of engaging in a “hasty ruling”.
Detective Golden’s attorney, Jacob Weinstein, said his client “did nothing wrong” and was charged with “guilt by association” and that the case had “no basis in fact or law.”
The company promoting the Electric Zoo festival, Made Events, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.