Former New York City Police Department Official Sentenced To 18 Months For Conspiring To Bribe Fellow Officers In Connection With Gun License Bribery Scheme

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Picture: Fuzzy Gerdes

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that PAUL DEAN was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos today in connection with a bribery scheme involving the approval of gun licenses by the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) License Division. Specifically, DEAN, who as second-in-command of the License Division had accepted gifts and favors in connection with his approval of gun licenses, conspired upon his retirement from the NYPD to open his own “expediting” business in which he would pay bribes to his fellow NYPD officers, once his subordinates in the License Division, to issue gun licenses to DEAN’s clients.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As a high-ranking officer and supervisor in the NYPD’s License Division, Paul Dean was entrusted with ensuring the integrity of the process for issuing gun licenses in New York City. Instead of embracing that trust and focusing on the safety of New Yorkers, he monetized it for his own benefit, and enabled officers under his command to do the same. Together with our partners in law enforcement, my office has worked tirelessly to make sure those efforts by Dean and others involved ended not with dollar signs, but in prison cells. We will continue to root out corrupt law enforcement officers where we find them, while commending the vast majority of officers who, unlike Dean, serve the City of New York honestly and honorably.”

According to the Indictment and Complaint filed in this case, other public filings, and statements made during the plea proceeding:

DEAN was a member of the NYPD from 1994 through 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2008 through 2016. DEAN, a lieutenant, was one of the highest-ranking members of the License Division and, from approximately November 2014 through November 2015, regularly ran its day-to-day operations. Co-defendant Robert Espinel was a member of the NYPD from 1995 through his retirement in 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2011 through 2016.

From at least 2013 through 2016, multiple NYPD officers in the License Division serving under DEAN’s command, including David Villanueva and Richard Ochetal, solicited and accepted bribes from gun license expediters – including Frank Soohoo, Alex Lichtenstein, a/k/a “Shaya,” and co-defendant Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective – in exchange for providing assistance to the expediters’ clients in obtaining gun licenses quickly and often with little to no diligence. DEAN, aware of this bribery arrangement, approved many of the gun license applications submitted by these expediters, despite the fact that no substantial due diligence had been performed on them. As part of the scheme, licenses were issued for individuals with substantial criminal histories, including arrests and convictions for crimes involving weapons or violence, and for individuals with histories of domestic violence.

DEAN accepted things of value from the expediters whose applications he approved, including $1,000 cash from Lichtenstein, catered meals and alcohol from Soohoo, and gun equipment from Valastro. DEAN also accepted gifts and favors directly from applicants whose licenses he approved, including free meals at restaurants, free liquor from a liquor distributor, free beer and soda from a beverage distributor, free car repairs from car shops, and free entertainment.

In 2015, dissatisfied with the fact that private gun expediters were profiting thousands of dollars per gun license applicant when DEAN and others did the work to approve those applications, DEAN and Espinel decided to retire and go into the expediting business themselves. In order to ensure the success of their business, DEAN and Espinel planned to bribe Villanueva and Ochetal, who were still in the License Division, to enable their clients to get special treatment. They also agreed with Valastro to run their expediting and bribery scheme out of Valastro’s gun store. According to the plan, Valastro would benefit from the scheme because DEAN and Espinel would steer successful applicants to Valastro’s store to buy guns. They also tried to corner the expediting market by forcing other expediters to work through them. Specifically, DEAN and Espinel attempted to coerce Frank Soohoo, another gun license expediter, into sharing his expediting clients with them by threatening to use their influence in the License Division to shut down Soohoo’s expediting business if Soohoo refused to work with, and make payments to, DEAN and Espinel.

Espinel and Valastro have previously pled guilty and are awaiting sentence. Villanueva, Ochetal, Lichtenstein, and Soohoo have also pled guilty in case number 16 Cr. 342 (SHS). Lichtenstein was sentenced by the U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein to 32 months in prison, and the remaining defendants are awaiting sentence.

In addition to the prison term, DEAN, 46, was sentenced to two years of supervised release, a fine of $7,500, and forfeiture of $1,000.

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