A member of a Borough Park safety patrol was hit with federal charges Monday that he ran a brazen bribery scheme to help friends get police pistol permits, this on the same day that a growing FBI investigation led to three more NYPD officers being disciplined, officials said.
Alex Lichtenstein, 44, was taken into custody Sunday by the FBI to face one count of bribery in a mushrooming police corruption scandal, which already has led to five previous cases of police officers being disciplined for possible receipt of illegal gifts and other favors.
The charge against Lichtenstein, who also is known by the first name “Chaya,” was spelled out in a 10-page criminal complaint unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. At an appearance on the complaint before a magistrate-judge, Lichtenstein, of upstate Pomona, was released after posting a $500,000 personal recognizance bond despite government claims he was an “arms dealer.” The bond is to be secured by his upstate home and that of a friend from Brooklyn.
The bribery charges against Lichtenstein are the first formal criminal allegations of official corruption to surface in the joint FBI-NYPD investigation. Two weeks ago, financially troubled restaurateur Hamlet Peralta was charged with running a $12 million Ponzi scheme. Sources said that a number of high-ranking NYPD officers had frequented Peralta’s defunct Hudson River Café.
According to the complaint, Lichtenstein as late as last Wednesday attempted to entice an undercover cop into a bribery scheme in which he offered the officer $6,000 for each gun license he helped Lichtenstein obtain. Lichtenstein said that last year he had obtained 150 gun licenses through his NYPD connections in the License Division, the unit that issues hand gun permits, the federal complaint alleges.
“I want to repeat myself, I am not bribing you,” Lichtenstein told the undercover officer, who replied “Shaya I’m not an [expletive], of course you are bribing me,” the complaint stated.
One of the licenses granted with Lichtenstein’s alleged involvement was to a person who had numerous moving violations and had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, including one in which he was accused of threatening to kill someone, according to the complaint.
Lichtenstein was identified in the complaint as a member of the Shomrin volunteer safety patrol, which court papers stated “is a volunteer, ostensibly unarmed Orthodox Jewish patrol society” aimed at combating crime and locating missing people.
The complaint also mentioned three police officers, identified only as “Sergeant-1“, “Officer-1” and “Deputy Inspector-1” as being involved in processing gun permits and that both the sergeant and the officer had a relationship with Lichtenstein. The deputy inspector had earlier this year spoke with both the sergeant and Lichtenstein and “banished” Lichtenstein from the office because of the money he was making selling gun licenses. None of the officers was charged with wrongdoing, although the officer admitted to the FBI he had received $100 in lunch money from Lichtenstein, the complaint states.
Monday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton transferred from the License Division Dep. Insp. Michael Endall and placed on modified duty and transferred Sgt. David Villanueva and Officer Richard Ocheta. Their possible connections to Lichtenstein weren’t clear late Monday.
With John Riley