Pistol-packin’ partners probed
January 27, 1997
At precisely the same hour Wednesday that federal prosecutors announced the racketeering indictments of police-union big shot lawyers, the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau swooped down on Room 110 at One Police Plaza.
As civilian employees huddled in tears outside, cops sealed off the office of the pistol-licensing division and carted out cartons of documents.
Returning from a luncheon celebrating his retirement, which was due to have begun Friday, its commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Henry Krantz, was slapped with administrative charges, accusing him of granting favors to some people applying for pistol permits. If Police Commissioner Howard Safir plays hardball, Krantz, a 30-year veteran not considered a rocket scientist but with an otherwise unblemished record, could lose his pension.
Contrary to a report Thursday in Newsday, IAB's raid was a solo one and was conducted without the knowledge of the U.S. attorney's office, which is running a parallel investigation of Krantz' friend and retired fellow deputy inspector Charles Luisi. That investigation stems from the discovery that Luisi accepted thousands of dollars of freebies from a professional gun dealer, Michael Zerin, who has ties to the highest levels of the department. Unlike Krantz, Luisi was allowed to retire without being charged with wrongdoing because IAB, which knew of the freebies for the past year, sleepwalked through its investigation.
And just how high up in the Police Department do Zerin's ties reach? Well, when the greatest law-enforcement official of the century (as former Police Commissioner William Bratton likes to think of himself) retired in April, he sought a lightweight .38-cal. pistol. Zerin provided it, along with ammunition and a holster.
An ex-Bratton aide said last fall around the time Bratton was considering running for mayor that Bratton had paid for it with a credit card.
Bratton's former chief of security, retired Lt. Greg Longworth, last week said Zerin had visited Bratton's office at Police Plaza before Bratton retired and had taken an impression of his credit card.
But Zerin never billed Bratton. He said last week he hadn't known where to send the bill after Bratton left the department.
Bratton said he discovered he hadn't paid Zerin when he reviewed his finances last November. He dismissed the suggestion of a hidden freebie, pointing out that a multitude of documents must be filed when registering a gun.
Two weeks ago, Bratton sent Zerin a check for $600 in payment. The check was sent about the time Bratton's successor, Safir, dumped Bratton's appointee Janet Lennon as deputy commissioner of legal matters. Safir hasn't stated publicly why he dropped Lennon. Perhaps it is coincidence, but Lennon was responsible for overseeing the pistol-licensing division.
Now let's examine Zerin's relationship to Krantz. After Krantz became commanding officer of the Licensing Divison in 1994, he attempted to buy into Zerin's gun business. He is also said to have received many of the same freebies Luisi had, including a trip to Puerto Rico. In fact, it was Krantz whom Longworth contacted to arrange Bratton's gun transaction through Zerin.
Still, some feel Krantz is being scapegoated because corruption and favoritism have run rampant within the pistol-licensing division for decades.
Take the Israeli consulate connection. Police sources said pistol permits are granted through the consulate without Israelis undergoing routine background checks. "There are two hundred to three hundred pistol permits we've issued to Israelis through the consulate and we don't know who they really are. We only know what they tell us," a police official said.
A consulate spokeswoman, Beth Levinson, didn't return inquiries.
IAB has sleepwalked through this. Two years ago, it suspended the civilian clerk who handled the consulate's pistol applications, charging her, in an apparently unrelated matter, with stealing thousands of dollars in fingerprint-application fees.
In a telephone interview, the clerk said she was suspended for 30 days and decided not to return to work. Police sources said IAB never questioned her about the Israeli connection. She declined to speak to Newsday about the Israeli connection.
Zerin, meanwhile, said the feds' investigation has destroyed his business. He said a police van parks outside his store on Warren Street and that cops photograph everyone going in and out of his store. "I had a lot of friends in the department," he said. "I never meant to hurt anybody. I haven't done anything wrong. This is like Nazi Germany."
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.