NYPD cops pocketed cash bribes to “expedite” pistol permits for members of the Orthodox Jewish community and a Borough Park Shomrim patrol leader offered another officer a near $1 million payday to keep the scheme going, the feds charged Monday.
A cop in the NYPD’s License Division allegedly confessed to the FBI that he and a supervisor accepted payments he called “lunch money” from Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, who was hauled into court Monday on bribery and conspiracy charges
Court papers say Lichtenstein was secretly recorded last week bragging about how he had secured 150 gun licenses through his connections in the division but needed a new hookup there following a crackdown.
He then offered a whistleblowing cop $6,000 a pop to continue the scheme, using a calculator to show that another 150 permits would be worth $900,000 in payoffs, court papers say.
Lichtenstein said his arrangement had been derailed by the License Division’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Michael Endall, for fear that people would think Endall “had his hand in the cookie pot,” according to the feds.
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.
But less than half an hour before the Lichtenstein complaint was unsealed, the NYPD announced that all three had been bounced from the License Division.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Endall “is being reassigned to an administrative position pending further review,” while Villanueva and Ochetal were both stripped of their badges and guns and also transferred.
The moves brought to nine the number of cops who have been publicly demoted.
FBI was investigating a gifts-for-favors scheme involving top NYPD brass and two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.
The joint probe with the NYPD has also enveloped Mayor de Blasio’s 2013 campaign-finance operation, and Bratton last week told The Post that it was the department’s worst scandal he has seen since the Knapp Commission’s revelations of widespread police graft in the early 1970s.
“This investigation will continue to go where the leads take us,” Bratton said in a statement Monday.
Lichtenstein, 44, was busted by the feds Sunday morning at his home in Pomona, Rockland County, where he lives with his wife and a teenage son.
He was hauled into a packed Manhattan federal courtroom Monday afternoon. Wearing a gray golf shirt, black pants and a black yarmulke, he appeared scrawny and pale as he sniffled loudly and wiped away tears.
Prosecutor Kan Nawaday asked to have Lichtenstein held without bail as a “danger to the community.”
“He was no less than an arms dealer for the community in New York City,” Nawaday said.
“Our case is very strong. Just last week, this defendant was recorded trying to bribe an NYPD officer to obtain a permit for his clients.”
Nawaday also said that the feds seized two handguns during Lichtenstein’s arrest and that he had a shotgun stashed in his home.
US Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman rejected the government’s request and set bond at $500,000.
“I don’t think dangerousness has been shown here. I think the government’s characterization of him as an arms dealer is somewhat hyperbolic,” Pitman said.
Lichtenstein, whose lawyer described him as a “self-employed businessman” making $80,000 a year, posted the bond and was sprung at around 5:30 p.m.
He declined to comment on his way out of the courthouse but gave a thumbs-up to photographers.
A source in the Borough Park Orthodox community said some of the pistol permits Lichtenstein obtained may have been legitimate, but many were not.
“It’s just a prestige thing. It shows you’re hooked up in the Police Department and you have important, high-ranking friends,” the source said.