Tuesday, August 10, 2010
'Gun nuts' holstered
No guns for "nuts."
The NYPD has suspended or revoked more than two dozen pistol licenses of retired cops whose names surfaced in an ongoing federal corruption probe, first reported in yesterday's Post, targeting crooked lawyers and psychiatrists who helped the former Finest obtain Social Security disability benefits by feigning mental illness, sources said.
The investigation was sparked when Social Security probers noticed an inordinate number of retired cops filing claims for mental disability after having been issued gun permits. In order to obtain the gun permits, the ex-cops would have had to swear that they weren't taking any drugs for mental problems.
Sources said the gun licenses were ordered suspended in recent months by NYPD Deputy Inspector Andrew Lunetta, the commanding officer of the department's Pistol Licensing Division.
A suspension is typically the first disciplinary step taken before a gun permit is revoked, which usually occurs after a permit holder has a hearing.
Retired cops must apply for "concealed carry" permits to legally retain their weapons after they leave the force -- and they must state on their paperwork that they are mentally sound and not taking drugs to treat any psychological conditions.
The suspensions were ordered, sources say, because the ex-cops had applied for or had received Social Security benefits involving a mental illness -- a circumstance that would contradict what they told the NYPD to get their gun permits.
"This would be an immediate reason to suspend a pistol-permit applicant. It's the first step before a formal revocation hearing at which an ex-cop or any applicant would be given an opportunity to contest the accusation of wrongdoing," said John Chambers, a lawyer who handles gun cases.
Gerold E. Levine, another attorney known for representing gun-license applicants, told The Post that he is now handling the case of one retired NYPD cop caught up in the scandal who is trying to get his pistol license back.
The client, whom he did not identify, saw his license suspended because a former lawyer filed what appears to be a fraudulent Social Security claim without the ex-cop's knowledge, Levine explained.
In early 2008, Levine said, the ex-cop retained a lawyer to file a claim for Social Security benefits for a bad back, but in October 2009, he was awarded benefits that cited his back problem and -- to the ex-cop's surprise -- post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He's extraordinarily angry at what happened to him," Levine said of the former cop.
"I presented an argument at the licensing hearing that what happened here is that the lawyer spiced up the application."
Levine is hopeful he can get the gun license back, because the former cop wrote to Social Security officials, demanding a new hearing and refusing to take any of the benefits