BROOKLYN — A Brooklyn businessman has been charged by the feds with obtaining gun permits for friends and other businessmen by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to NYPD officers in its License Division, authorities said on Monday.
Among the people helped by the suspect, Alex Lichtenstein, was an applicant who had a checkered history that included a forgery arrest, several car accidents, a slew of moving violations and he was accused of threatening to kill someone, court papers alleged.
Lichtenstein, 44, was picked up on Sunday by the FBI outside his Pomona, N.Y., home after being indicted for offering to pay $6,000 to an honest officer working undercover for the feds and Internal Affairs, his indictment claims.
In all, Lichtenstein boasted that he obtained 150 weapons for his friends and associates, charging them about $18,000 each time, and giving $6,000 of the payout to his police connections. If true, that means corrupt officers raked in as much as $900,000.
However, no officer has yet to be charged in connection with the case.
One unnamed officer who was questioned by the FBI did admit after remaining "silent for a few seconds" that he and an undisclosed sergeant had helped Lichtenstein, and received "lunch money" of "one hundred dollars," the indictment said.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton late Monday transferred three officers out of its License Division Monday afternoon: Deputy Inspector Michael Endall, the commanding officer, Sgt. David Villanueva and Police Officer Richard Ochetal. The latter two were also stripped of their guns and badges and placed on modified duty.
Obtaining a gun license is traditionally extremely difficult in the Big Apple, and the NYPD often requires applicants to prove a security need or that they carry large sums of money in their jobs.
The NYPD is reviewing its license records to see where Lichtenstein may have helped to determine whether those people actually deserved guns.
"Deputy Inspector Endall is an honest cop who is sickened by what he reads in the federal complaint," Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association said in statement.
Lichtenstein, who has close ties to the private security organization guarding Borough Park, was expected to be arraigned late Monday.
The case began following a tip to the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, a sources said.
The development is the latest black eye to the NYPD in the ongoing federal probe that has centered on police brass and two other Brooklyn businessman, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who provided gifts to NYPD brass in exchange for favors.
Sources say Reichberg had a gun permit for several years, but it was recently yanked as the federal probe heated up. Rechnitz applied, but was turned down. No other details were immediately available.
Six officers — including five high ranking officials — have been placed on modified assignment stripped of their badges and badges in that sweeping investigation, which is also focusing on political wrongdoing surrounding Mayor Bill de Blasio's election campaign and his personal nonprofit which he abruptly shut down a month ago.
Bratton has said the department has not seen a scandal reaching into the highest ranks since the days of the Knapp Commission when the NYPD was rife with corrupt officers involved in protection rackets and ripping off drug dealers.