POMONA, N.Y. -- A Pomona man has been charged with trying to bribe New York City police to obtain gun licenses, according to Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Alex Lichtenstein, 44, was arrested Sunday by FBI agents and officers from the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, Bharara said. He appeared in court in Manhattan on Monday but has not yet entered a plea.
If convicted of bribery, Lichtenstein faces up to 10 years behind bars. He is also accused of conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Lichtenstein is a volunteer in the Borough Park Shomrim, an ostensibly unarmed Orthodox Jewish safety patrol in Brooklyn, Bharara said.
According to the indictment, Lichtenstein sought to bribe police “with thousands of dollars to obtain gun licenses.”
According to Bharara, Lictenstein recently tried to bribe an officer with $6,000 “claiming that his prior connections in the License Department were no longer able to help.”
The officer turned Lichtenstein down and reported the incident to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the indictment said.
A sting operation was set up, during which, Bharara said, Lichtenstein was recorded bragging about having used his connections to “expedite” the processing of 150 gun licenses.
The charges also state that Lichtenstein complained that his customers needed his services because the License Division tended to reject applications “for the biggest stupidity,” such as a history of moving violations.
According to Bharara’s office, Lichtenstein had “substantial connections” with an unnamed sergeant who had worked for the License Division for more than 10 years.
“Corruption in any part of government cuts at the very fabric of our society. But it is particularly damaging when it undermines public safety,” the U.S. attorney said.
The Lichtenstein case illustrates why the requirements for obtaining gun licenses are very tough, said Diego Rodriquez, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office.
Rodriquez said that Lichtenstein's alleged actions “potentially put the general public in danger.”
Bharara’s office also said that the investigation was ongoing and that license applications associated with Lichtenstein were being seized.
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