Secret Recordings Expose Crooked Cops Taking Bribes for Illegal Gun Sales

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It doesn’t matter how quickly you complete and submit your application to buy and own a firearm in New York City. It still takes a very long time. The whole process, which can take less than 15 minutes in some parts of the country, lasts between 3 and 6 months in NYC. For gun rights advocates, the bureaucracy is unconstitutional. But for gun dealers, the long wait can make or break a man’s business.

For one Brooklyn weapons dealer, Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, the long wait was too much to bear, leading the gun dealer to offer up bribes to NYPD police officers to expedite the process for his customers. But instead of simply passing money in an envelope, Lichtenstein decided to record thousands of hours of conversations with officers involved in his bribery scheme.

While the NY Daily News identified Shaya as a “crooked gun broker”, some might say the real crooks are the cops who took his bribes. Thanks to his nearly 70,000 recorded conversations, we now know who some of those crooked NYPD cops are. But as The Free Thought Project has faithfully reported, you shouldn’t hold your breath in anxious expectation in seeing crooked cops spending time in prison. No, for police officers, there’s a double standard. Criminals like Lichtenstein spend years in prison, while police officers get the proverbial slap on the wrist, often having their cases dismissed, or losing vacation pay, but rarely spending any amount of time in jail or prison.

It’s unclear what Lichenstein’s motivations were for recording so many interactions with police officers. Maybe he considered the volume of information some sort of protection from prosecution. Or possibly, he wanted to document his difficulties with conducting his business dealings. At any rate, he pleaded guilty November 10th to bribing NYPD officers into expediting his gun permits.

“I had a good and friendly relationship with New York City police officers. During these years, I gave police officers in the Licensing Division things of value, including money, knowing that by giving them those things, the officers would do me favors, including expediting gun license applications,” Lichtenstein, 45, said.

The NYPD officers involved are Sgt. David Villanueva, Officer Richard Ochetal, Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant. Only Orchetal pleaded guilty to charges relating to the probe, the others stand accused of various crimes related to the case. Villanueva is accused of accepting gifts in exchange for helping speed up weapons permits. Harrington and Grant are accused of being “cops on call” for Jeremy Reichberg (Brooklyn businessman also accused of doling out gifts to police officers) and Jona Rechnitz (wealthy donor to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio). Reichberg reportedly gave away several lavish gifts to several police officers. According to the NY Daily, he gave away Super Bowl tickets and trips to Brazil, and China.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Feds will aggressively prosecute the gun crimes with which the officers are implicated. But a closer look at the problem seems appropriate. In the past, gun permits weren’t even necessary to purchase a handgun or rifle. In fact, Roses department store used to sell Chinese made SKS semi-automatic military rifles out of fifty-gallon barrels. Adults and teenagers could easily walk by, pick one up out of the barrel, and carry it to the cashier to purchase. But after Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr., and the Brady Law was passed, the federal government decided then to regulate all firearms purchases, later instituting federal background checks for all Americans desiring to purchase firearms.

Because of the regulations, stores were forced to place all their firearms behind locked cabinets or cease selling them altogether. Left-leaning politicians then began to pass legislation banning firearms, forbidding the possession of firearms within city limits, and making it nearly impossible in places like NYC to legally obtain, possess, and carry a firearm. Without such legislation, Lichenstein and all the officers involved would probably not find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

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About Jack Burns

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine