NEW YORK A Brooklyn man has been arrested on charges that he bribed New York City police officers to obtain gun licenses, prosecutors said on Monday, in the latest fallout from a federal corruption probe that includes businessmen with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Alex Lichtenstein, 44, was set to appear in Manhattan federal court on Monday after prosecutors said he collected thousands of dollars from individuals who may not have qualified for licenses and then bribed officers to approve their applications.
The deputy inspector in charge of the department’s license division and a sergeant and an officer under his command were part of the scheme, a criminal complaint said.
Lichtenstein was arrested after he offered $6,000 per license last week to another officer, who wore a wire as part of the investigation, prosecutors said.
Lichtenstein told the officer he had obtained 150 licenses through another arrangement but needed a new connection, the complaint said.
The complaint did not name the officers involved, but Police Commissioner William Bratton announced he had reassigned three officers in connection with the ongoing federal investigation.
Deputy Inspector Michael Endall, the commanding officer of the license division, was reassigned, along with Sergeant David Villanueva and Officer Richard Ochetal.
Union representatives for the officers did not immediately comment. Five high-ranking officers were previously removed from their posts as a result of the probe.
Investigators are examining whether officers received gifts and travel in exchange for unspecified favors. A source familiar with the matter has said the probe has centered on two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.
Rechnitz contributed to de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, while Reichberg raised money for a nonprofit controlled by de Blasio advisers that supported the mayor’s agenda.
De Blasio has said his administration did not commit any violations. His 2013 campaign committee is returning Rechnitz’s contributions.
The investigation has also included former Chief of Department Phillip Banks, once the department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, and Norman Seabrook, head of the correction officers union, the source has said.
Banks’ lawyer has denied wrongdoing. The others have either declined to comment or could not be reached.
The investigation previously led to the arrest of a former restaurant owner for running a $12 million Ponzi scheme. A separate source said that case was also linked to the probe.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Nate Raymond; Editing by Dan Grebler)