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Exposing the finest of the buffs

May 14, 2004

Mr. Teddy Leb, a.k.a. The Duke of Buffland, brings law enforcement agencies together better than Homeland Security.

Take his most recent caper - a desk appearance ticket at Kennedy Airport two months ago on misdemeanor charges in which no fewer than five law enforcement agencies were involved: the FBI, Port Authority police, Queens district attorney, Bronx district attorney and the NYPD.

It's treacherous out there in Buffland - that strange netherworld of wealthy businessmen who wish they were cops.

Three years ago, just before The Finest Foundation's annual "Chief's Night at the Plaza" - of which Leb was dinner chairman - he was busted by postal authorities supposedly after a complaint from a rival buff, Mr. Reginald Ward, chairman/founder of the New York Law Enforcement Foundation.

Ward and his brother Cecil, the foundation's former treasurer, had invested $200,000 in Leb's Long Island car dealership that went into bankruptcy. Charges were dropped. The Wards are suing.

While details of Leb's Kennedy adventure remain murky - a hearing Wednesday before Queens Criminal Court Judge Joseph Zayas was adjourned to June 16 - Your Humble Servant can now report the following:

On the afternoon of March 15, Leb, who was retained by a licensed private investigation agency to conduct what is known as "a matrimonial," conducted a surveillance of Helen Antonio, 45, and Yianni Leonidou, 19, as they boarded a Virgin Airlines plane.

Leb - whom many in law enforcement regard as a loyal and generous benefactor - contacted his friend, FBI agent Tim Rembijas, who is based at Kennedy. Rembijas introduced Leb to Virgin Air, Port Authority police and Virgin Air security. After Rembijas departed, Leb and Howie Weinberg, who is a member of Leb's new buff group, New York Cops, began photographing Antonio and Leonidou, who grabbed the camera.

Port Authority police arrested Leb, Weinberg and Leonidou. Leb - who had a pistol inside his car - was cited for impersonating an FBI official and violating his pistol license. He's licensed in Nassau County but not in the city.

The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, which investigates charges of impersonation of law enforcement officials, was summoned. Det. Gregory P. McCann charged Weinberg with criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal impersonation and unlawful use of a police uniform or emblem - specifically his "New York Cops Foundation" badge.

Because Weinberg had a prior arrest and Leonidou was a foreign national, they were held overnight. Leb was given a desk appearance ticket. Queens District Attorney Chief Assistant Jack Ryan said that decision was made by the NYPD, not him.

Queens DA Richard Brown immediately turned the case over to the Bronx to prosecute. Brown had a conflict. Two of Leb's daughters work in his office - one as an assistant DA, the other as an unpaid intern. Both are said to be excellent workers.

Then, two weeks after the incident, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stepped in. Kelly is no fan of Buffland. A year and a half ago, he nixed the Finest Foundation's "Chief's Night at the Pierre Hotel" after it offered a $50,000 "Commissioner's Package" for 12 that included "the opportunity to have a high-ranking law enforcement official at your table." Kelly said this implied his access could be bought. His decision cost the group its $40,000 down payment.

On April 1, First Deputy Commissioner George Grasso wrote to George Stamboulidis, the president of New York Cops: "You must fully appreciate the seriousness with which we view the March 15th incident...Based upon the totality of the circumstances we must advise you that the NYPD has made a determination to formally disassociate itself from the New York Cops Foundation."

Horse sense. First, the good news from the Mounted Division. As a result of this column's stories:

Dep. Insp. Pete Loehle of the 104th Precinct in Queens has been brought in to supervise commanding officer Capt. Christopher Acerbo.

The double-touring of horses has been stopped.

Log books have been cleaned up to ensure no fudging.

Horses are now on regular de-worming schedules.

Now the bad news. Because so many horses are injured, due to past practices of purchasing sick or injured animals, there are fewer horses than cops. Those cops without their steeds have been reassigned to cleaning the barns.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.