Shaya Lichtenstein, Jewish Shomrim Leader Busted In NYPD Corruption Probe
Published on Mar 10, 2021
A Brooklyn Shomrim member Monday was charged with bribing cops with $6,000 in cash and other goodies to expedite gun permit requests, and three officers were transferred out of the licensing unit as part of the far reaching NYPD corruption probe.
Shaya "Alex" Lichtenstein, 44, was so cozy with cops in the License Division he'd spend nearly every day inside the office in police headquarters since 2014, according to the federal criminal complaint.
“He was no less than an arms dealer for the community," said federal prosecutor Kan Nawaday.
Before the arraignment, the NYPD announced that the License Division’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Michael Endall, 48, was transferred from the unit into an administrative position "pending further review."
The department also placed Sgt. David Villanueva, 42, and Officer Richard Ochetal, 36, on modified duty and moved them away from the unit, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement.
Lichtenstein, who has his own gun permit, is a member of the Borough Park Shomrim, the Jewish volunteer patrol. He was arrested Sunday in his Pomona, N.Y. home.
He would charge members of the Orthodox community between $5,000 and $25,000 to expedite their gun permit requests, according to community sources.
The investigation began in April 2016 after he approached an unnamed officer in the unit and tried to bribe him, court records show.
The process typically takes at least a year and candidates with low level criminal offenses are almost always nixed.
The officer who Lichtenstein tried to bribe turned to the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau. That unit then launched an undercover sting with the feds.
They arranged a meeting in Borough Park where Lichtenstein allegedly patted down the officers, according to video from the gathering.
After one officer complained, Lichtenstein said he'd rather meet the man "in your underpants and your undershirt."
The undercover then said he was nervous about getting involved in the scheme.
In response, Lichtenstein pulled out a calculator and estimated the officer could earn $900,000 if he helped with an estimated 150 permits.
"I got so many licenses last year," Lichtenstein allegedly bragged.
He claimed all of his customers were eligible applicants and that he was merely asking the officers to speed up the process, the complaint shows.
But a review of his cases showed one applicant who was approved for gun permit in 2013 had a long criminal history, prosecutors said.
The unnamed full carry license holder had been arrested for forgery and was the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, "including one in which he was accused of threating to kill someone," the complaint said. The person also had 10 moving violations and three vehicle-related summonses.
Lichtenstein was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
His lawyer, Richard Finkle, argued in court that his client was a "family man and a community minded man who's charged with bribery."
Lichenstein, whose family and friends packed the courtroom Monday, has deep ties to the community, and was a "fundraiser and fund-contributor" to various organizations, Finkle added.
Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman disagreed with prosecutors' portrayal of him as an "arms dealer," calling it somewhat "hyperbolic." He also seemed to think that his deep community ties minimized his risk of flight.
The arrest is tied to an ongoing federal probe that involves top police brass taking gifts in return for favors.
"This case was developed as part of a long-term joint investigation by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorney's Office," Bratton said.
"As we have previously stated, this investigation will continue to go where the leads take us."
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