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A gun story, continued

February 10, 1997

Here now are more details of the dealings between the firearms merchant and police department insider whose world has caved in on him and, as his agent refers to him, the greatest law enforcement official of the decade, if not the century.

The former is Michael Zerin, currently the subject of a federal investigation, stemming from his having given thousands of dollars in freebies to a deputy police inspector, Charlie Luisi. The latter is ex-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Last April as he retired, Bratton sought a pistol for post-police life. His chief of security, Lt. Greg Longworth, sought out Zerin, telling him to bring a selection of weapons for the commissioner. Zerin was then in a tumultuous civil suit, brought by a hooker he'd fallen hard for and wed, and who then sued him for bigamy because he was already married with two kids. So Zerin had his inspector friend Luisi begin a police investigation of the hooker and her madam, culminating with detectives improperly keeping the hooker in custody for seven hours. Bratton's former police spokesman John Miller had broken the story on WNBC-TV four months earlier in December, 1995, though he never mentioned Zerin by name. Nor did he mention Luisi, and he omitted the fact that police improperly detained the hooker for those seven hours.

On April 9, Zerin arrived at Bratton's office on the 14th floor of Police Plaza with a filled shopping bag of weapons. He was given a souvenir mug and a police cap while Bratton selected a lightweight .38-cal. Smith and Wesson for $450. Bratton later ordered a box of Federal Hydra-Shok ammunition and three holsters, including an ankle and an inside pants holster. Total with tax: $645.17.

But Zerin never billed Bratton. His stated reason: Bratton ordered the holsters and bullets after Zerin had left Police Plaza. Before the sale was completed, Bratton had retired and Zerin didn't know where to find him.

Last November, as Bratton considered running for mayor, this reporter asked a Bratton aide about the unpaid bill. The aide said Bratton had paid by credit card.

Soon afterward, on Nov. 20, Bratton wrote to Zerin: "On Apr. 9, I purchased a Smith and Wesson revolver . . . from your company, at which time an American Express card imprint was taken. The final amount of the sale was dependent on the selection of a holster.

"While preparing my tax records for my 1996 filing, I was unable to locate a copy of that American Express imprint. A review of my American Express records indicates it was apparently never processed.

"I would appreciate it if you would check your records and contact me to finalize this transaction as soon as possible . . ."

On Nov. 25, Zerin wrote Bratton: "I . . . did in fact sell you a Smith Printable versionand Wesson revolver. I was indeed the salesman. The sale took place in your office at One Police Plaza.

"Besides the gun, holsters and ammunition were delivered to you by your aides. I have no recollection of any American Express imprint, as I did not take an imprint machine with me . . . Thank you for the hat and the mug."

On Nov. 26, four days before he made his announcement not to run, Bratton wrote Zerin again. "Enclosed please find a check in the amount of $645.17."

To be continued.

Tough or Toothless? Some top cops, including First Deputy Commissioner Tosano Simonetti, are seeking future employment outside the department. They were interviewed by MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc., whose chairman is zillionaire Ronald Perelman. Its former director of security, ex-NYPD cop Art McNevin, retired last fall.

Simonetti turns 63, the retirement age for uniformed cops, and is expected to leave by year's end, although his position of first deputy is considered a non-uniformed job.

The other cops asked their names not be used, fearing a dagger or two in retaliation. But not Tough Tony (or Toothless Tosano, depending on your point of view). When asked about his interview, Simonetti waved his arm and stalked off. Asked whether his gesture meant he hadn't been interviewed or whether he didn't want to answer, Simonetti turned away, while a so-called bodyguard apparently put his life on the line, keeping a reporter away.

Dave D. Redux. While David Dinkins rethinks running for mayor, let's rethink how he ran the NYPD.

Positives: Added 6,000 new officers under the Safe Streets, Safe City program.

Negatives: Appointed Lee Brown police commissioner. Brown slept through the Crown Heights riot; he slept through the Korean-grocery boycott; and he was still asleep during the collapse of the department's Internal Affairs Division.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.