Lichtenstein, Villanueva, Ochetal, Soohoo, Espinel, Velastro, Dean – The Gun License List Gets Longer and Longer

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 31, 2019

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

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.

Mr. Berman thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department, Internal Affairs Division, for their outstanding investigative work in this matter.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Ravener is in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s):
Public Corruption
Press Release Number:
19-022
Updated January 31, 2019
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Reichberg – It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog, No… a Brother-Eat-Brother World Out There…

rechnitz

THE NEW YORK POST

NYPD corruption trial gets new twist

Moshe has been granted immunity to testify, the filing said.

On Monday, the defense also played wiretaps It’s brother vs. brother in an NYPD bribe case unfolding in Manhattan federal court.

Mayor Bill de Blasio donor Jeremy Reichberg, who stands accused of bribing NYPD cops, will be facing off against his brother, Moshe Reichberg, according to a new court filing.

Prosecutors plan to call Moshe to testify as early as this week about his Borough Park police-liaison sibling’s alleged efforts to keep evidence from the FBI, the court filing said.

In addition to being charged with bribing cops, Reichberg faces one count of obstruction of justice because feds say he asked Moshe to remove incriminating evidence about his bribery scheme from his house, including business cards of high-ranking officers, documents and electronic devices.showing the government’s key witness, Jona Rechnitz, growing increasingly panicked as city and federal investigators began circling the wagons on his financial shenanigans, which led to their bribery probe.

“I hear a helicopter, I hear an ambulance, I wake up,” Rechnitz told his dad in one call.

Rechnitz and Reichberg and Ho, Ho, Ho… Merry…. Huh?

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de-blasio-donors-allegedly-delivered-gifts-to-dirty-cops-1

Video shows de Blasio donors allegedly delivering bribes to cops

You better watch out, you better not bribe …

Accused cop-briber Jeremy Reich­berg and cohort Jona Rechnitz donned Santa hats and cruised around in a black Aston Martin convertible to deliver Christmas grifts to officers on Staten Island, according to videos and photos released Tuesday.

The pricey goodies, including Nintendo games and American Girl dolls, were delivered to Reich­berg’s co-defendant, former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant, as well as retired cop Eric Rodriguez and already-convicted ex-Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Rechnitz testified in Manhattan federal court.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Rechnitz says in the video.

Rechnitz explained that he wasn’t just channeling the jolly fat man — he was mocking one of Reichberg’s “competitors,” a man named “Abe” whom he described as also having high-level connections in the NYPD.

“You little ho,” he said of Abe in the clip.

In another video, the two men are seen driving up to a heavily protected 1 Police Plaza with ease while boasting about their ties to then-Chief of Department Philip Banks.

“We’re going to go park in the chief of department’s extra spot,” Rechnitz boasts in the video.

“Please salute us, officer, if you want to keep your job,” he adds snarkily as the men drive past a cop standing guard in the cold.

“Philip Banks is now chief of department, and we have full access,” Rechnitz explained of the statements on the witness stand.

Another photo showed Reichberg standing next to an underground parking spot for the police brass. Rechnitz says in the video that they “were parking, and then we’re going with the PC [Police Chief Banks] in his car to the ball-dropping,” referring to the New Year’s Eve Times Square crystal-ball-­descent celebration, which the NYPD controls.

Rechnitz has already admitted to bribing cops and public officials, including some in City Hall.

He testified Tuesday against Reichberg, who’s on trial for bribing police officers.

Rechnitz said Reichberg had many city officials in his pocket and used those connections to charge pals who wanted to buy their way out of jury duty and land expedited building permits.

The ex-friend recalled taking advantage of Reichberg’s cozy connections soon after meeting him about a decade ago, realizing his new buddy might be able to help him get a special placard to park wherever he wanted, including in no-parking zones.

“Everybody in the city knows that parking is a hassle,” the real estate investor and jeweler shrugged on the stand.

Rechnitz said he quickly learned that Reichberg was using his city connections, including with ­court-officer union boss Dennis Quirk, to line his own pockets.

The witness claimed that Reich­berg used Quirk to get people out of jury duty and got paid for it. Rechnitz did not say Quirk took any money.

Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, acknowledged to The Post on Tuesday that he helped Reichberg get people out of jury duty but said it was all based on legitimate adjournments and that no money was exchanged for the favors.

“I never got paid money from anybody,” Quirk said.

“If I can help somebody, I will help somebody.”

Meanwhile, Reichberg also had contacts with the city’s Department of Buildings, which he used to expedite housing permits for buddies, Rechnitz said

To continue reading click here.

Some R&R, Debauchery, A Plane and an Ex-Hooker…

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Ex-Hooker Testifies About Vegas Debauchery at NYPD Bribery Case

The former call girl who had been paid by a Mayor Bill de Blasio supporter to entertain NYPD brass on a 2013 trip to Las Vegas had some spicy stories to tell last week when she testified at the NYPD corruption case in Manhattan federal court.

Gabi Grecko, born Gabriella Curtis, said under oath Mayor de Blasio’s donor Jeremy Reichberg brought her along on the trip to service “anyone who asked.” In Vegas, she continued, she said she shacked up with NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant in a room at the MGM Grand.

When asked if she had “sexual activity” with Grant on the trip, Grecko answers that she had. In addition, she confessed to having had “sexual contact” with Reichberg and his real-estate investor friend Jona Rechnitz on the plane.

None of the men chose to have their picture taken with he, she added. “No one wanted to be in any pictures. That was very clear throughout the whole weekend.”

Grecko said she was paid $1,500 for the weekend jaunt. “It was a long weekend it felt like,” she said in court. She said she was told by Grant on the ride home, “If our team had done better we would have been able to give you more.”

The 29-year-old fiancée of millionaire medic Geoffrey Edelsten said the plane experience was “so traumatic that I stopped doing it (prostitution),” according to The Daily Telegraph.

In 2016, Grecko gave graphic details of the reported tryst to the New York Post, claiming: ‘I didn’t think it would be as extreme as it was, but then because I obviously couldn’t get off the plane, I had to do what they were telling me.”

Grecko says she performed sex acts on multiple men at the same time during the plane trip, the DailyMail reported. ‘More than one would try to get my attention at once. They were really creepy and very rude and offensive.”

“A year after the purported incident, Grecko met and fell in love with Edelsten–a wealthy and famous Australian who is 46 years her senior, added the DailyMail. The pair married 2015 but, amazingly, split just months later. The pair has since reconciled and are preparing to re-marry in a traditional religious Jewish ceremony.

Since quitting prostitution, Grecko has embarked on a rap career, going by the stage name GLittA FoxX.

Edelsten, 75, recently told news.com.au that he and Grecko, 29, have mended their tumultuous relationship the past year and are now happier than ever, and plan to settle again in Melbourne.

“They were married in June 2015 in a registry office next to a photocopying machine in Melbourne’s Chinatown, but they have never got divorced.”

“We are back together now,” he exclusively told news.com.au. “It is only her career that is keeping her in New York City, and as soon as the end of November, when she will have finished her latest music video, she will come back to Melbourne,” he said. “She has changed a lot in the three years since she went back to New York City. Her music career is going very well, and secondly she is much more mature.”

A Diamond of a Story, the Reichberg Connection, where are the Diamonds?

NEW YORK POST

De Blasio donor allegedly used connections to try and get relative out of jail

A de Blasio donor on trial for allegedly bribing cops was profiting off his powerful connections, including charging a family money to facilitate getting a relative out of jail, a witness testified Wednesday.

Jeremy Reichberg charged the family of Brooklyn cabinetmaker Avi Zangi $2,500 to intervene after Zangi was arrested in 2015 for rear-ending someone while driving with a suspended license, it was claimed at the Manhattan federal- court trial.

The witness, contractor Boaz Gazit, said he reached out to Reichberg on behalf of Zangi’s family because they understood the Borough Park businessman was “connected” to the NYPD.

“Yeah, they know he [Reichberg] is connected and he can get him [Zangi] out somehow,” Gazit said.

“[Reichberg] says he’s going to call someone for $2,500 and, ‘I can get him out in two hours.’ ”

Reichberg got paid despite failing to spring Zangi that night, according to earlier testimony from the Brooklyn highway patrol officer who arrested Zangi.

Officer Theresa Haley told the jury earlier that Reichberg’s pal and co-defendant James Grant called her precinct while she was processing Zangi and asked her why he wasn’t getting off with a “desk ticket,” which would have sent Zangi home that night instead of being sent on to Central Booking.

Haley said she refused the request, despite Grant’s high rank as an NYPD deputy inspector, which is an appointed position.

Reichberg stands accused of a years-long scheme to bribe cops, including Grant, along with real-estate investor Jona Rechnitz, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds.

The four-week trial is expected to smear several cops who the feds say also did favors for Reichberg and Rechnitz in exchange for meals and vacations — but who were never charged.

Gazit also told the jury on Wednesday that he installed new windows in Grant’s home in 2013 at the behest of Reichberg.

The windows together with the construction cost roughly $8,000, but he was only paid $2,000 — by Reichberg, he said.

Lawyers for the defense argued that Gazit wasn’t paid for the windows because he did a bad job.

They also claimed that the $2,500 that Reichberg was paid to help following Zangi’s arrest was for actual work, including hiring a lawyer.

FILED UNDER     

A PLATINUM TESTIMONY – Pay-to-Play – Jona Rechnitz and Mayor de Blasio

 

THE DAILY NEWS

Major de Blasio donor brags about closeness with mayor, says he expected influence for funds at Seabrook trial

 

One of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest donors took the witness stand Thursday to boast about his closeness to the mayor and make clear he had expected “lots of access” to Hizzoner.

The embarrassing testimony came from Jona Rechnitz, who’s pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is the star witness in the trial of disgraced jail union boss Norman Seabrook.

“I was giving money `to the Mayor of New York in exchange for favors,” he said to describe one element of the criminal offense to which he pleaded guilty.

Rechnitz described a meeting he and another donor, Jeremy Reichberg, had with de Blasio’s key fund-raiser, Ross Offinger.

Embattled de Blasio donor to testify against Norman Seabrook

“We expect a lot of access and influence,” Rechnitz said the group told Offinger. “We’re going to become significant contributors.

He said Offinger, a longtime de Blasio aide and the chief rainmaker for the mayor’s non-profit, Campaign for One New York, replied, “Okay. How much do you think you guys can get together?”

Norman Seabrook says $20G was casino prize money, not bribes

Rechnitz, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the hopes of winning lighter jail time, raised $41,000 for the mayor before his 2013 election, donated $50,000 to Campaign for One New York, and wrote a $102,300 check as part of the mayor’s 2014 failed effort to flip the state Senate to Democratic control.

Offinger, Rechnitz testified, returned with his hand out after de Blasio was elected mayor.

“He would call when they needed money,” he said. In return, “I would call whenever I had an issue.”

“I would be a ‘yes’ man,” he added. “I always gave money.”

Witness in Norman Seabrook bribery case is ‘serial liar’: defense

In court he revealed that de Blasio — who has strained to distance himself from Rechnitz — even came to his office before the election.

The then-candidate “told me to call if there’s anything I need. Always be in touch.”

Rechnitz was one of several donors who got tremendous access to the mayor. De Blasio routinely ordered his minions to intervene on donors’ behalf.

Emails show de Blasio responding, “I’m all ears” when Rechnitz suggested a candidate for buildings commissioner, and City Hall intervened when he was cited for running an illegal hotel.

Norman Seabrook says $20G was casino prize money, not bribes

In response late Thursday, de Blasio’s press secretary, Eric Phillips, mocked the credibility of the mayor’s major donor.

“These are nothing but re-heated, re-packaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels,” he said. “The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”

Rechnitz was cooperating with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s probe of de Blasio that result in no charges but the finding that the mayor had intervened on behalf of big donors.

Rechnitz also admitted he “straw donors” — an illegal scheme to avoid laws limiting how much contributors can give to politicians.

Ex-correction union head Seabrook must face corruption charges

The law prohibits donors from masking their identity by giving to campaigns through other donors. Rechnitz said he did just that by having people in his office write checks for which he would reimburse them.

He described Offinger as a kind of bag man, dropping by his office to pick up checks.

“I told him to hold on and I’d walk out, get a few checks from people and then bring them in,” he said.

Please click here for the original article.

Inspectors Accepting Bribes to Speed up Developments, Shocking? Nope.

The Daily News

Fourteen people charged with bribing inspectors to speed up Brooklyn development projects

With new buildings popping up across Brooklyn, some corrupt property owners put a pair of city inspectors on retainer to avoid code violations, the Department of Investigation charged Wednesday.

The two Department of Buildings inspectors were among 14 individuals hit with charges in the latest crackdown on the resilient corruption that’s plagued the building sector in this city for decades.

The two inspectors were paid off by property owners and contractors to overlook code violations such as inoperable exit signs on residential and commercial buildings going up across Brooklyn, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said.

“Fabricating documents, lying about conducting inspections or about who is doing the work has serious consequences,” said Peters. “For the defendants it’s about expediting the construction timeline. It’s about making an extra buck.”

Financier gets probation for bribing state pension official

In all, 10 property owners, developers and contractors were charged in the scheme, along with a private sector asbestos inspector who took fees to fudge inspections and a master plumber who sold the use of his license.

Thirteen of the 14 were arrested in a pre-dawn sweep. All will be prosecuted by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and were to be presented in court later Wednesday.

The two city inspectors were paid off with cash but also got free kitchen renovations and driveway upgrades to their private homes, the complaints allege.