New York – A former New York City police lieutenant, two former police officers and a lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor were arrested in a federal gun licensing probe Tuesday as authorities said police employees traded speedy handling of gun permits for paid vacations, jewelry, catered parties, cash and visits to strip clubs.
According to court papers, the trading of gun licenses for bribes stretched from at least 2010 to 2016. Authorities said members of the NYPD License Division solicited and accepted bribes from individuals who charged customers thousands of dollars in fees to secure gun licenses.
At a news conference, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said he was “absolutely appalled” at what happened and promised that changes have been made to prevent a recurrence. He said over 100 gun licenses have been revoked as the department reviews over 400 license applications to ensure they were properly processed.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said bribes resulted in licenses awarded to individuals with substantial criminal histories, including convictions for crimes involving weapons or violence.
“They sold their duty to do their jobs,” Kim said. “They allegedly got more audacious as time went on.”
Among those charged was Paul Dean, 44, of Wantagh, a police lieutenant and the second-highest ranking member of the License Division when he retired in January 2016. He supervised about 40 uniformed police employees and had ultimate authority to approve or reject licenses and upgrade requests, authorities said.
A criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court said Dean sought and obtained from gun license applicants free restaurant meals, free liquor, free car repairs and free entertainment, including trips to strip clubs.
An attorney for Dean did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Also charged was John Chambers, 62, a Manhattan attorney who worked from 1983 to 1985 as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.
According to a criminal complaint, Chambers marketed himself to potential clients as the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in NY” and said he specialized in interview, appeal, hearing, renewal, incident, or any other issue arising regarding gun licensing.
The complaint said he gave members of the NYPD License Division tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events; sports memorabilia; an $8,000 watch; and cash hidden in magazines.
The lawyer had clients on Long Island.
Others arrested Tuesday included a retired police officer who worked in the licensing bureau from 2011 through 2016 and a retired police detective who retired in 1999 but sought gun permits for others as he operated a gun store. All were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, among other offenses.
Attorney Barry Slotnick, representing Chambers, said Chambers will plead not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy.
“He’s an excellent lawyer. We do believe that he has not done anything inappropriate or wrong,” Slotnick said.
The arrests are part of an ongoing probe that led to a shake-up of the NYPD’s licensing division last year.