May 11, 2008 --
Firefighters say they're the targets of stings designed to bait them into inappropriate or even criminal behavior.

In an April 18 memo, United Firefighters Association president Stephen Cassidy wrote to his members: "The UFA has confirmed that the City's Department of Investigation is conducting random 'integrity' tests of city employees."

Several firefighter sources told The Post the incidents that worried firefighters included cocaine dropped in a firehouse, an RV packed full of beer and babes, and a damsel in distress slipping a cash reward to a firefighter.

DOI assistant commissioner Keith Schwam told The Post that claims his agency was involved in three out of the four incidents described by firefighters were "utterly false."

Other union sources said they weren't sure who was carrying out the alleged stings, but believed set-ups were being staged. Some suspected the FDNY's own integrity bureau was behind them.

Among the incidents that set off alarm bells:

* Firefighters in Queens answered a knock on their door to find two young women requesting help with their RV, sources said.

The girls reportedly told firefighters they had dropped the keys to the vehicle down a sink in the rig, and needed help fishing them out.

When firefighters climbed aboard, according to sources, there were more young women waiting for them - and lots of beer.

According to several sources, the firefighters resisted invitations from the friendly gaggle of girls to sit down and crack open a few cold ones, and they exited the vehicle as soon as they recovered the keys.

A fire source said the RV had been wired for video and sound and the entire episode had been taped.

"What was being tested - their testosterone?" one source said when asked about the incident. "It's like something out of a Bud Light commercial."

Schwarm acknowledged a role in an undercover operation "about three years ago . . . that bore only a passing resemblance" to the version firefighters are telling now.

He said the investigation hadn't been a random test but was "spurred by a specific complaint from a homeowner about a firefighter removing valuable property from a half-burned house."

* Firefighters at Engine 168 on Staten Island answered the door to a man flashing a city-issued badge and asking to use the bathroom, sources said.

About 20 minutes after he left, a firefighter went into the bathroom and found a clear plastic envelope filled with what looked like cocaine. The commanding officer alerted FDNY headquarters, and all the members were given a drug test, sources said.

* On May 3, at Squad 288/Hazmat 1 in Maspeth, Queens, a woman claimed her car had been locked behind the gate of a bank parking lot, fire sources said.

After firefighters freed her car, she returned carrying cake and an envelope stuffed with three $100 bills.

Firefighters accepted the cake but declined to take her money. Then the woman - who earlier told a firefighter she had just lost her job - dropped the envelope into a firefighter's boot and walked away, a fire source said. The men called FDNY headquarters.

* In Manhattan, Engine 33 responded to a medical call for an intoxicated homeless man who needed hospitalization.

Firefighters tended to him while waiting for the Emergency Medical Service to show up - but after the victim was loaded into the ambulance, a bystander flashed what sources said looked to be an FDNY badge and began questioning the firefighters about their treatment of the "victim."

Cassidy said he wasn't worried any of his firefighters might fail an integrity test. "We have complete faith in our firefighters who each and every day risk their lives doing the most dangerous job in the world," he said.

Union officials said their April memo was just to alert members that some situations might not be what they seemed to be at first glance. An FDNY spokesman declined to comment on the alleged stings.

Schwam said that "when DOI receives a complaint from any member of the public . . . we take those allegations seriously and may well do an undercover investigation."

Due to limited resources, he said, "we are doing such investigations based on complaints we receive from members of the public, and less so if at all at random."

He added that DOI believes "the vast majority of city employees, including the brave members of the FDNY, are honest and hardworking people."

But "should there come a time when we think it is prudent to do random integrity tests anywhere throughout the agencies, that is our prerogative," Schwam noted.

Some firefighters believe they've fallen under a more watchful eye since the March 15 East Side crane collapse. Three neighbors have come forward saying their homes were looted and have itemized $90,000 worth of jewelry and electronics that they say disappeared.

No arrests have been made, but an FDNY source said suspicion over one allegation centered on two firefighter companies ordered to search one of the buildings. The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau was called in to interview victims.

Sources said probers believe construction workers had the most access to apartments at 300 E. 51st St. The sources said firefighters were likely the ones with the most access to an apartment at 301 E. 50th St. where a resident reported stolen goods totaling $2,000.
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