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Ripples spread in sea of trouble

May 5, 1997

To mitigate some serious tax problems, or perhaps even a prison sentence, the rogue gun dealer and rogue husband Michael Zerin has been visiting with the United States attorney, offering nuggets of police corruption.

Already, the ripples are spreading through the highest levels of One Police Plaza.

Over the past six months, Zerin's life has been revealed as in the most sordid of penny dreadfuls. First, there were charges against him in a civil suit of bigamy and forced imprisonment from his former girlfriend, a self-described $400-an-hour prostitute, whom Zerin "married" in Las Vegas while still married to the mother of his two children.

Next, he compromised two police inspector friends and offered the federal investigators lubricious tidbits from his $400 gift of a lightweight .38-cal. Smith and Wesson revolver to William Bratton that the ex-commissioner says he paid with an American Express card that Zerin never processed.

Now, Zerin appears to be helping prosecutors unearth what may be a key to one of Police Plaza's hidden treasures: the ability of so many of the top brass to retire with tax-free disability pensions.

Through his third-generation firearms business - currently the subject of an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigation over a questionable shipment of rifles - Zerin has had a longtime hook into the Pistol Licensing Division. Recently, though, he's been crying that his business is ruined and that he fears for his life.

And perhaps with some cause. Zerin is akin to poison ivy. Touch him and you risk catching something. If you don't believe that, just ask Bratton or former Deputy Inspectors Charlie Luisi and Henry Krantz or Luisi's ex-boss, former Chief of Manhattan Detectives Jack Hill.

Luisi, whom Zerin calls "a father figure," resigned last year after refusing to answer in the civil suit whether he'd accepted thousands of dollars of Zerin freebies. His disability pension, approved by the department's medical board, was denied.

Krantz, who headed the Pistol Licensing Division while attempting to buy into Zerin's firearms business, was forced to pay a $10,000 departmental fine for showing favoritism to Zerin in expediting pistol permits for him and Gus Bevona, the $400,000-a-year president of Service Employees Local 32B, which represents doormen. Bevona had sought a target permit to shoot at Zerin's range.

 

Most recently, federal investigators have begun examining Chief Hill's disability pension, obtained a year ago last week. In what might be described as "The Doctors' Plot," investigators are seeking to determine how the three doctors who signed off on Hill's claim for a busted up knee went to the head of Krantz' line at the Pistol Licensing Division to obtain pistol permits.

Printable versionSaid an official at Police Plaza last week, "Subpoenas are flying all over here."

Zerin also boasts he possesses a memo from Police Commissioner Howard Safir on the subject, warning Krantz that the Pistol Licensing Division "is not the American Medical Association." No one other than Zerin admits to having seen this memo.

Last week, Zerin's firearms store on Warren Street across from City Hall stood shuttered with metal plating and four padlocks. His telephone produced a busy signal. A call to his digs at Trump Tower prompted an answering machine and, moments later, a call from David Breitbart, his lawyer with the cowboy boots and tinted hair, who snarled, "I don't want you writing about Michael . . . Michael does not have a cooperating agreement with the government . . . I'll sue your --- ."

The day before, Zerin had said: "If what you assume is correct, why should I talk to you?" Then he added, "What's in it for me?"

Disinviting Bill. In the latest chapter of "Who in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's Police Department Disinvited Ex-Commissioner Bratton to the COMSTAT Conference on Crime Stratgies That Bratton Invented," the department has returned the $385 checks of 20 security firms - Bratton's included - that registered for the conference. No one will own up to who made the decision to reject this $7,700 windfall, after it was discovered that Bratton - Giuliani's nemesis - was planning to attend.

Here now are the responses of Giuliani's crack public relations combo to that question.

So-called police spokeswoman Marilyn (I have nothing for you) Mode: "I have nothing for you."

Her assistant Lenny (I can't remember the name of the person from whose apartment I falsely registered to vote in 1993) Alcivar: "I can't provide anything on that."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.