Jona Rechnitz

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An Elf Caught in a Scandal With the New York Mayor

One Christmas Day a couple of years ago, two Orthodox businessmen in elf costumes delivered gifts to the home of a high-ranking official in the New York City police department: a video game system for his son, and jewelry for his wife.

Prosecutors say the elves were engaged in a vast bribery scheme, and that they handed out more than just video games: In 2013, the elves flew NYPD officials to Las Vegas in a private jet with an onboard prostitute.

In return, the elves got favors of their own: Police closed a lane in the Lincoln Tunnel at their behest, helped with investigations related to their businesses, and drove them around in police vehicles.

One of the elves was Jona Rechnitz, 33, the flashy scion of a wealthy California family. This spring, Rechnitz pled guilty to conspiracy, according to a report in The New York Times. Now he is helping prosecutors with a whole web of related corruption cases, according to press reports — cases that have shaken the city, and could derail the political future of the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Rechnitz, who donated to de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, is cooperating with federal prosecutors in their case against Norman Seabrook, the powerful head of the Corrections Officers union, and in the case against the high-ranking police officials who allegedly took his bribes. He is also cooperating in an ongoing federal inquiry into de Blasio’s fundraising activities.

Will the Orthodox elf take down the mayor? All that’s clear is that this year, this Christmas elf has stockings full of coal ready for Gracie Mansion.

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