Hasidic Watchman Pleads Not Guilty to NYPD Bribes

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A little more than a month after his initial charges, a member of a controversial Hasidic watchdog group pleaded not guilty an indictment accusing him of trying to corrupt the New York City Police Department.
     Shaya “Alex” Lichtenstein, a 44-year-old Pomona resident, was arrested on April 17 at his house, where prosecutors say that they found photographs of him NYPD personnel around his office.
     Days before his arrest, Lichtenstein lured an undercover officer with the prospect of becoming just shy of a millionaire by helping arm a Hasidic neighborhood watch group known as the Shomrim, prosecutors say.
     Court papers describe a tense meeting between Lichtenstein and the unnamed officer in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park on April 13.
     Prosecutors quoted Lichtenstein as saying he would have preferred meeting him “in your underpants and your undershirt,” fearing the officer had a wire.
     The officer — who is not named in the complaint — was indeed recording the conversation on video and audio.
     Lichtenstein promised the officer and a union delegate “more than you’ll make in the police department,” pulling out a calculator to multiply $6,000 per license with the number of Shomrim members for a final tally of $900,000, according to the complaint.
     Since Lichtenstein’s arrest, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging him with bribery and conspiracy on May 16.
     Lichtenstein and his attorney said little at an arraignment denying those charges on Monday.
     “I plead not guilty, Your Honor,” Lichtenstein told U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Kan Min Nawaday indicated it would take six weeks to provide defense attorneys with the evidence in the case, including recordings, bank data, hard drives, thumb drives and applications from the licensing division.
     Richard Frankel, an attorney for Lichtenstein with Meissner, Kleinberg & Finkel, declined to comment on his client’s case after the hearing.
     The parties will appear again in court on Aug. 16.

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