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Press Release

Former Assistant District Attorney Convicted In Manhattan Federal Court Of Bribery And Fraud Relating To Gun Licenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Lawyer Convicted of Bribing New York City Police Department Sergeant to Give Favorable Treatment to his Clients in Gun License Matters

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the conviction in Manhattan federal court of JOHN CHAMBERS for bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.  The jury convicted CHAMBERS today on all four counts of the Indictment following a one-week trial before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “John Chambers, a former prosecutor, called himself a gun license ‘expediter.’  What a unanimous jury concluded today was that his expediting amounted to little more than bribing his contacts in the NYPD’s License Division.  On behalf of his clients, Chambers acted as an intermediary for individuals who sought to circumvent the legitimate gun licensing process, and in some cases had criminal records or were otherwise precluded from owning firearms at all.  The willingness of John Chambers to corrupt the gun License Division for his own benefit exposed the people of New York to unnecessary danger.  This Office will continue to root out the corruption that undermines the public’s confidence in the law enforcement officers and institutions sworn to serve us all.”

According to the Indictment, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and evidence presented in court during the trial:

JOHN CHAMBERS, a former Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, is an attorney who represents individuals before the NYPD’s License Division, and who markets himself to potential clients as the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in NY.”  From at least 2010 through 2015, CHAMBERS gave NYPD Sergeant David Villanueva numerous valuable items, including tickets to sporting and entertainment events for Villanueva and his family, free dinners and lunches for Villanueva, sports memorabilia, a wristwatch with a retail price of approximately $8,500, and over $2000 in cash.

In exchange, Villanueva assisted CHAMBERS’s clients in several ways.  When licensees who were clients of CHAMBERS were subject to “incident investigations” – investigations by the License Division to determine whether a license should be suspended or revoked as a result of an incident – Villanueva would close these investigations more quickly and with more favorable outcomes than the applicants otherwise would receive.  For example, on multiple occasions, Villanueva continued licenses for CHAMBERS’s clients – returning their ability to keep and carry firearms – even when the appropriate disposition would have been a license revocation, based on incidents such as domestic incidents or accidental firearms discharges.  Villanueva also would modify the results of incident investigations after they were completed, such as changing a license revocation for multiple drunk driving arrests into a short suspension.  Villanueva would also cause CHAMBERS’s clients to receive shorter suspension periods than they would otherwise receive.  In addition, Villanueva ensured that renewal applications submitted by CHAMBERS’s clients, which typically take 30 to 40 days for approval, were renewed more expeditiously, sometimes as quickly as within one day.  He also upgraded the licenses of clients of CHAMBERS to full concealed carry licenses on an expedited basis and without sufficient documentation to justify the upgrade.

Villanueva also helped CHAMBERS renew gun licenses for clients before the Pistol Section of the Nassau County Police Department, where Villanueva had contacts.  Starting in or about 2012, CHAMBERS brought his clients’ renewal applications to Villanueva at One Police Plaza, and Villanueva mailed those applications to the Pistol Section using his NYPD License Division stationery.  Villanueva did so knowing that because he was submitting the renewal applications using his NYPD License Division stationery, the renewals would be approved in a significantly faster time for CHAMBERS’s clients than for other applicants.  In exchange, CHAMBERS gave Villanueva cash bribes, as well as tickets to sporting and entertainment events for Villanueva and his family.  CHAMBERS typically mailed Villanueva the cash by taping it to the inside of a magazine. 

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CHAMBERS, 63, who resides in Manhattan, New York, was found guilty of one count of bribery, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison, one count of honest services fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

CHAMBERS is scheduled to be sentenced on August 9, 2018.

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, and noted that the investigation is continuing.  

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Alex Rossmiller and Paul M. Monteleoni are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated April 24, 2018

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 18-131