April 25 (UPI) -- Three retired police officers and a former prosecutor were charged Tuesday in a corruption investigation into New York City's gun-licensing agency.
The charges say gun-licensing expediters bribed police officials to obtain gun permits. The city's gun permits are distributed by the New York Police Department, and some seeking the permits turn to expediters to help speed up the process.
Complaints revealed Tuesday by the Justice Department show that former police Sgt. Daniel Villenueva pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges, after a June arrest in the gun-licensing scheme, and is cooperating with authorities.
Indicted Tuesday were Paul Dean and Robert Espinel, officers assigned to the licensing division; Gaetano Valastro, who retired from the NYPD in 1999 and owned a firearms store; and former Brooklyn prosecutor John Chambers, who The New York Times said allegedly specialized in helping clients obtain gun permits in New York City and adjacent Nassau County.
Dean, Espinel and Valastro were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. Dean and Espinel were also charged with counts of extortion and making false statements. Chambers was charged with bribery and conspiracy.
The charges come eight months after Alex Lichtenstein of Brooklyn was sentenced to 32 months in prison on charges he bribed police officials to obtain expedited gun licenses.