Adding another layer of bad news for the NYPD in the case of convicted gun dealer and Shomrim (Jewish neighborhood patrol) member Alex "Shaya" Lichtenstein, who pleaded guilty to bribing New York City cops to get gun licenses for his clients, federal prosecutors revealed in court on Wednesday that they had recordings of conversations Lichtenstein had with corrupt cops.
While prosecutors didn't reveal what exactly was on the tapes, they announced in a letter yesterday that they had 70,000 recordings of conversations Lichtenstein had, including with police officers according to the News. The recordings were saved to an email address, according to federal prosecutors, and a majority of them were "contemporaneous memorialization of dealings of questionable legality with members of the NYPD."
Sources told the Post that Lichtenstein made the recordings to remember conversations he had when he was drunk. Prosecutors said the tapes connected to someone in a parallel case, and sources told the Post that "dozens" of officers in the 66th Precinct in Borough Park, where Lichtenstein paid his bribes, were questioned because of the recordings.
The Lichtenstein saga has been a black eye and ongoing mess for the NYPD since his trial began last year. The Deputy Inspector of the NYPD's Licensing Division and two other officers were demoted after the revelations that Lichtenstein was caught on camera offering to pay a cop $6,000 for each gun license granted to Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein had bragged to the officer that he obtained 150 gun licenses this way over a three year period after he was introduced to a NYPD sergeant in the Licensing Division in 2013.
Sergeant David Villanueva was eventually arrested and charged with bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy last year. A lawyer representing gun owners who got their permits through Lichtenstein said that gun seekers had to only submit minimal paperwork and that some of the permit holders didn't even have to sit down for a police interview.
Lt. Michael Andreano, stationed in the 66th Precinct, was demoted last October for being too close to Lichtenstein. Inspector Michael Ameri, the head of the NYPD's highway patrol, killed himself last year after being questioned regarding a larger FBI investigation into NYPD corruption. Before his suicide, Ameri allegedly distanced himself from Lichtenstein specifically and told another officer in the highway patrol not to communicate with him.
Last summer, as news of the investigations was breaking, then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he didn't feel the revelations showed systemic corruption in the NYPD.