Ex-NYPD cop gets 18 months for role in gun licensing bribery scheme

Prosecutors hailed the sentencing Thursday of a corrupt ex-cop whose racket to arrange gun permits for the right price “ended not with dollar signs, but in prison cells.”

Paul Dean, a former lieutenant with the New York Police Department, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a federal judge for his part in a long-running bribery scheme involving the approval of notoriously hard-to-get gun licenses by the NYPD License Division in which he was the second-in-command.

“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,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “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.”

Court documents show that Dean joined the department in 1994 and began serving in the licensing division more than a decade ago before retiring in 2016. In his final three years with the unit, Dean admitted he and those he supervised — including officers David Villanueva, Robert Espinel, and Richard Ochetal — asked for and accepted bribes from street-wise “expediters” such as Alex Lichtenstein, Frank Soohoo, and Gaetano Valastro, who in turn passed on fees to their customers as high as $16,000.

The bribes supplied included cash, free car repair, liquor, prostitutes and even free guns in exchange for Dean and his fellow officers skipping standard processes for the permits such as conducting applicant interviews or verifying information, a move that allowed people with “substantial criminal histories, including arrests and convictions for crimes involving weapons or violence, and for individuals with histories of domestic violence,” to be rapidly approved. For those applications not given special treatment, the process costs over $400 in fees alone and can take as much as a year only to yield mixed results.

Once he retired from the NYPD, Dean went into the “fixer” business himself, utilizing contacts he groomed as a supervisor, going so far as to attempt to corner the market in moody gun permits by threatening to use his influence in the License Division to shut down rival expediters.

Dean was arrested by federal authorities in April 2017, along with his co-conspirators, and pleaded guilty on a host of charges last August.

Espinel, Ochetal, Soohoo, Valastro, and Villanueva have also accepted pleas and are awaiting sentencing. Lichtenstein was sentenced to 32 months in prison in 2017.

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