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Ex-cop enters guilty plea in Flushing nightclub case

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A former New York City police officer from Jamaica Estates who had been accused of accepting bribes to protect a Flushing nightclub that allegedly operated a prostitution business frequented by Chinese patrons pleaded guilty last week to tax-evasion charges, authorities said.

The guilty plea of Sgt. Jay Zhao, who had worked at the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn, came almost seven months after he was charged in federal court in Brooklyn with accepting cash payments from undercover FBI agents posing as Chinese businessmen. In return, Zhao agreed to protect the men from law enforcement authorities if they had sex with prostitutes from a club at which Zhao had moonlighted, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District.

Zhao pleaded guilty last Thursday to the lesser charge of tax evasion in connection with income he had received while working at the Flushing club, Chun Du, but did not report. As a result, Zhao, 33, will not face charges stemming from accepting payments from the FBI agents, the authorities said. He faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced, authorities said.

Jerry Varson, a police spokesman, said Zhao is no longer employed by the Police Department.

Zhao’s arrest marked the culmination of a yearlong investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Police Department, the complaint said. Between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17, 1998, the authorities sent two undercover officers posing as out-of-town businessmen to Chun Du, on 37th Avenue near Main Street, to inquire about hiring prostitutes for their clients, prosecutors said.

During that time, prosecutors said, the professed businessmen rented a private room in the nightclub — one of several used to entertain patrons — where the manager, or mama san, said they could sing, dance and drink. It was during one of those evenings in December that the undercover officers learned from the mama san that Zhao and two other city officers, who were not named in the indictment, took $5,000 a month in cash to watch over the club, prosecutors contended.

In many instances, Zhao, who was off duty, would stand guard outside the club, his weapon holstered on his belt, and would search entering patrons, the complaint said.

When the businessmen visited the club again on April 15, 1999, Zhao brought two of the prostitutes from Chun Du to a Flushing hotel where they offered the men massages, prosecutors said. Later that night, one of the men gave Zhao $2,500 for arranging the meeting, a payment that was also to ensure that the men would not be arrested, the complaint said.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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