Three former New York City police officers from Long Island were implicated in an alleged scheme to rush gun permit licenses in exchange for bribes, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Paul Dean, a 44-year-old former lieutenant of the NYPD’s Licensing Division from Wantagh, and 47-year-old Robert Espinal, an ex-officer from Seaford, were each charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. David Villanueva, a 43-year-old Valley Stream resident and former sergeant, who was arrested last summer for his role in the alleged scheme, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery and making false statements. Villanueva also helped grease gun permit applications reviewed by the Nassau County Police Department’s Pistol Section investigators, authorities said.
“Corruption at the License Division also spawned a cottage industry of parasitic profiteers, alleged bribers masquerading as so-called expediters,” said Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “The critically important police function of issuing and controlling gun licenses was one they were willing to pervert for personal profit. When police officers violate their oath in this way, they not only betray the public they have sworn to protect, but their fellow officers who do their jobs the right way.”
Prosecutors said the LI trio, a former NYPD detective from Queens, an ex-Brooklyn prosecutor and a gun permit license expeditor orchestrated a scheme to have the NYPD License Division speed up the approval of gun licenses in exchange for bribes of cash, paid vacations, food, liquor, guns and prostitutes between 2013 and last year.
Dean, Espinal, Villanueva and a fourth officer from the city received bribes for clients of three gun permit expeditors, one of whom was a former NYPD detective, authorities said. In exchange, the accused officers didn’t do the required level of investigation into the applicants by, for example, not conducting interviews with them. Some of those who got gun permits in the alleged scheme had been convicted of violent crimes involving weapons and had histories of domestic violence, according to investigators.
Dean and Espinal retired in 2015 to become better paid as gun permit expeditors themselves, relying on their contacts in their old unit to get special treatment for their clients, prosecutors said. They also tried to pressure other gun expeditors to share their clients or they would use their clout in the unit to slow their approvals, authorities said.
In a separate alleged scheme, prosecutors said Villanueva received free dinners, sports memorabilia and an $8,000 watch for helping a former Brooklyn prosecutor shorten his clients’ 40-day waiting periods to as little as one day and shorten permit suspension periods, prosecutors said.
The ex-prosecutor also had Villanueva send gun license renewal applications to the Nassau police Pistol Section on NYPD stationery, knowing that would shorten the review time for the ex-prosecutor’s clients, authorities said. In exchange, Villanueva was paid in cash and sports tickets by the ex-prosecutor, authorities said.
The suspects face up to 10 years in prison.