NYPD Unit Allegedly Sold Gun Permits for Strippers and Cash

  • NYPD Unit Allegedly Sold Gun Permits for Strippers and Cash

NYPD Unit Allegedly Sold Gun Permits for Strippers and Cash

A former New York City police lieutenant, two former police officers and a lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor were arrested in a federal gun licensing probe Tuesday as authorities described a scam in which police employees traded speedy handling of gun permits for paid vacations, jewelry, catered parties, cash and visits to strip clubs.

New court filings link the NYPD's Licensing Division to a business that boasted an ability to expedite gun permits which were used to illegally arm a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood watch group.

More than 100 gun licenses were issued on the back of bribes without conducting necessary background checks or following up on major red flags, acting United States attorney for Manhattan Joon Kim told reporters.

Three more former NYPD officers were arrested Tuesday for their alleged role in a gun-license bribery scheme.

It was not immediately clear who would represent Dean and Espinel at an afternoon court appearance.

Former Lt. Paul Dean, 44, from Wantagh, New York, who ran the day-to-day operations of the NYPD's firearm license division from November 2014 to November 2015, was charged in Manhattan federal court with two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of extortion.

John Chambers, 62, a lawyer who worked as a prosecutor in Brooklyn in the 1980s, is charged with paying bribes to David Villanueva, another officer in the licensing division. Documents unsealed on Tuesday show that he has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The arrests are part of an ongoing probe that led to a shake-up of the NYPD's licensing division previous year.

The expediters were identified by prosecutors as Valastro, Soohoo and Alex Lichtenstein, aka "Shaya", who was sentenced a year ago to 32 months in prison for bribing police officers.

The allegedly crooked quartet was ensnared by a three-year police internal affairs and FBI investigation of the NYPD's License Division, whose job it is to approve gun permits. "We do believe that he has not done anything inappropriate or wrong".

Chambers, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, says on his Web site that he's "the ONLY lawyer specializing in gun licensing EXCLUSIVELY" and bills himself as the "Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in NY".

Dean and Espinel left the division in late 2015, "not satisfied with the bribes provided to them by expediters in light of the amounts the expediters were charging their clients", and tried to start their own consulting business, prosecutors said.

Chambers typically mailed Villanueva cash, according to court documents, taping it to the inside of a magazine. In one conversation, according to investigators, Espinel referred to "Jewish" expediters who were making "all the money while we're busting our asses".

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained that the scheme resulted in hundreds of permits being pulled and the gun licensing unit going through an overhaul.

Dean and Espinel are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in addition to extortion.

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said he was appalled at such behavior. From at least 2010 through 2015, officials said, Chambers gave Villanueva multiple gifts - including tickets to sporting and entertainment events, free dinners and lunches, sports memorabilia and a wristwatch valued at roughly $8,000 - so that Villanueva would use his influence to renew applications, speed up investigations of licenses, and shorten the suspension period for his clients.