US charges four in NY police gun license bribery case
New York (AFP) – Three former New York police officers and a lawyer were arrested and charged Tuesday in a long-running bribery case that saw police allegedly rewarded with cash, exotic holidays and prostitutes in exchange for issuing gun licenses.
Two other sacked police officers and a so-called gun license “expediter” have pled guilty in connection with the case, which promoted New York’s police department — the largest in the United States — to implement reforms.
More than 100 gun licenses were issued on the back of bribes without conducting necessary background checks or following up on major red flags, acting US attorney for Manhattan Joon Kim told reporters.
“They allegedly sold their oath to serve and protect,” Kim said of the former police officers. The ex-officers arrested on Tuesday were named as Paul Dean, 44, Robert Espinel, 47, and Gaetano Valastro, 58.
Dean, once the second-highest ranking member of the gun license division, and Espinel are accused of retiring from the police deliberately to run their own license expediting services in order to maximize kickbacks.
The bribes allegedly included cash stuffed in envelopes, mailed through the post or hidden in magazines, paid vacations to Mexico and Hawaii, free meals in restaurants, expensive liquor, visits to strip clubs and the services of prostitutes.
The fourth person arrested and charged on Tuesday was named as 62-year-old John Chambers, a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn who ran an expediting business that helped clients navigate the licensing process in exchange for money.
Another former police officer David Villanueva, 43, and license expediter Frank Soohoo, 55, have already pled guilty, prosecutors said Tuesday. Former police officer Richard Ochetal has also pled guilty to accepting bribes, they said.