On Thursday, a Brooklyn, NY man plead guilty to bribing New York Police Department (NYPD) officials into expediting customers’ gun applications. As many as 150 applications were expedited.
According to the Department of Justice, Alex Lichtenstein was a part of Borough Park Shomrim, an unarmed Orthodox Jewish patrol that worked to combat criminal activity and locate missing persons. He ran a business on the side which would expedite gun licenses for his customers. He was charging customers as much as $18,000 per license.
Lichtenstein’s operation was discovered in April when he attempted to bribe a NYPD officer. Lichtenstein offered the officer $6,000 per license that the officer could get passed through the License Division. He also told the officer about using his NYPD connections to expedite his customers’ applications.
The officer declined Lichtenstein’s offer and reported the incident.
It was discovered that Lichtenstein’s main connection in the License Division was commanding officer David Villanueva. Lichtenstein frequently used cash bribes to get Villanueva to expedite the gun licenses. Richard Ochetal, an officer under Villanueva, was instructed to approve the applications Lichtenstein brought in. In return, Ochetal would receive a cut of Villanueva’s cash bribe.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara released the following statement in regards to Lichtenstein’s trial:
As he admitted today, Alex Lichtenstein acted as a corrupt gun ‘expediter,’ bribing police officers to obtain gun licenses, offering thousands of dollars per license. In a recorded conversation, Lichtenstein bragged of using his NYPD connections to obtain 150 gun licenses. This type of corruption not only undermines public confidence in law enforcement, but it undermines public safety. And it cannot be tolerated. I thank the FBI and the NYPD for their dedication and commitment to this case and this important investigation.
Ochteal is cooperating with government officials and has plead guilty to accepting cash bribes. Villanueva’s case is currently pending.
Lichtenstein has pled guilty to one count of bribery, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison, and one count of offering a bribe, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.