NEW YORK (AP) — A volunteer safety patrol member who admitted bribing New York City police officers to get dozens of gun permits for others was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years in prison.
Alex "Shaya" Lichtenstein had weakened the faith New York City residents have in their police department, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein said. Lichtenstein also must forfeit $230,000 and pay a $20,000 fine. Prosecutors said he had earned between $150,000 and $200,000 from the scheme.
"I'm still perplexed at what led Mr. Lichtenstein to do this," the judge said.
Lichtenstein, 45, said he initially didn't charge people in his community when they asked him to help them get a gun permit. But then, he said, he began charging money "and it went from a little to more and more."
Prosecutors said Lichtenstein charged $10,000 to $16,000, using some of the money to pay police officers up to $1,000 per application.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Capone said Lichtenstein also gave police officers money and gifts. He said some people who obtained gun permits through the scheme had criminal histories, including domestic violence, though none of the guns have apparently been traced to any crimes.
A defense lawyer described his client's numerous acts of charity and pointed to over 100 supporters who showed up at the sentencing, many of them having benefited from Lichtenstein's help.
Lichtenstein blamed the crime partly on an addiction to alcohol that he said he had gone to rehabilitation to overcome.
"I made terrible, terrible mistakes. I know that," he said. "I am very, very sorry for my mistakes."
The Pomona, New York, resident pleaded guilty to bribery charges in November. Prosecutors say he had bragged that he'd gotten at least 150 licenses for people to carry guns.
In a release, acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: "By engaging in an egregious scheme to trade cash for gun licenses, Alex Lichtenstein and his co-defendants in the New York Police Department corrupted the sensitive process of evaluating gun license applications in New York City."
Prosecutors said Lichtenstein is a member of the Borough Park Shomrim, a volunteer Orthodox Jewish patrol group that seeks to fight crime and locate missing people.