A member of Borough Park’s Jewish community safety patrol is the latest to be implicated in the massive NYPD bribery scandal that recently snagged several South Brooklyn top cops.
Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, 44, was arrested and slapped with bribery and conspiracy charges in connection with his efforts to pay members of the NYPD to “expedite” gun permit requests, which he sold for a profit, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office announced yesterday.
After losing his connection at NYPD’s License Division following a crackdown, Lichtenstein was recorded allegedly trying to bribe another officer, offering him $6000 per gun license — which he dubbed “lunch money.” He allegedly bragged to the officer about 150 gun licenses he obtained through the scheme.
“Corruption in any part of government cuts at the very fabric of our society. But it is particularly damaging when it undermines public safety. I thank the FBI and the New York City Police Department, particularly its Internal Affairs Bureau, for their dedication and commitment to this ongoing and important investigation,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The New York Post identifies two officers involved in the gun dealing scheme, citing police sources:
The complaint says Lichtenstein spent time at the License Division “on a near daily basis” from 2014 and was regularly spotted sitting near the desk of a supervisor, identified by sources as Sgt. David Villanueva.
Villanueva told his colleagues at the License Division early this year that Endall had “banished Lichtenstein because of the money Lichtenstein was making selling gun licenses,” the complaint says.
Villanueva claimed that Lichtenstein “charged his customers $18,000 per gun license.”
During questioning Sunday by the FBI, another License Division cop — identified by sources as Officer Richard Ochetal — admitted he knew Lichtenstein and had processed permit applications for him, the papers say.
“When asked if Lichtenstein paid cash bribes to [Villanueva] or [Ochetal], [Ochetal] was silent for several seconds and then said that Lichtenstein would give [Villanueva] ‘lunch money’ for [Villanueva] and [Ochetal],” the complaint says.
“Asked how much ‘lunch money’ he would receive, [Ochetal] responded ‘a hundred dollars.’ ’’
No charges have been filed against Endall, Villanueva or Ochetal.
The Lichtenstein arrest is just the latest in a massive bribery scandal which has implicated numerous high ranking cops, including two who once worked at Dyker Height/Bay Ridge’s 68th Precinct. Deputy Inspector James Grant, former executive officer of the 68th Precinct, and current Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez, who once commanded the 68th Precinct, are both facing serious consequences as a result of their connection to the scheme.
The police corruption probe seems to grow more elaborate each day, recently ensnaring a gang of Yiddish-speaking teens and a Borough Park businessman.
Other details that emerged in the investigation include Lichtenstein allegedly complaining to the whistleblowing officer that without the cash transactions, the NYPD License Division would reject applications “for the biggest stupidity,” such as a history of moving violations.
The NYPD License Division receives approximately 5,000 applications for gun licenses a year, mostly for individuals to keep in their homes or businesses. A small portion of the approved licenses are for individuals to carry guns for limited work reasons or to carry guns at all times based on a substantial showing of employment-based need.
According to New York State Law, the NYPD License Division can reject gun license applications for a person who has a criminal record, driving violations, or mental health issues. One of Lichtenstein’s clients was approved for a gun license in 2013 despite the fact that he had been arrested for forgery, had 10 moving violations and three vehicle-related summonses, and had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints — including one in which he was accused of threatening to kill someone, the investigation revealed.
“This bribery scheme allowed a man to obtain a gun who made a threat against someone’s life. It’s further alarming that Lichtenstein bragged about beating the system and potentially put the general public in danger,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriquez said.
Lichtenstein was released on $500,000 bail yesterday and faces up to 15 years in prison, according to prosecutors.