Author Archive

Former Traffic Court Judge Charged with Conspiracy and Bribery

October 23, 2014

October 23, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office Public Corruption Task Force charged former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes with Criminal Conspiracy, Bribery in Official and Political Matters, Conflict of Interest, Failure to Make Required Disclosures in Statement of Financial Interests, and Failure to File Statement of Financial Interests. Ms. Tynes, age 71, turned herself in to a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and a District Attorney detective this morning, and is currently being processed by police.

Ms. Tynes’ arrest is the result of a Presentment issued by a Philadelphia County grand jury investigating potential political corruption involving various Pennsylvania state legislators, public officials and other related individuals. The matter was submitted to the grand jury after it was referred by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (“OAG”) to District Attorney Seth Williams in May of 2014. The grand jury investigation continues.

The OAG had conducted its political corruption investigation from 2010 through 2012. It was an off-shoot of other public corruption investigations and prosecutions handled by the OAG, including one focusing on grants issued through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. As an investigation focusing on DCED grants was being pursued, the OAG made an arrest in a separate case involving grants. Through conversations with that defendant and his attorney, it became apparent that the defendant had substantial information about political corruption in Philadelphia.

The defendant voluntarily offered to become a confidential informant (CI) and work in an undercover capacity to record conversations and meetings he had with public officials. The CI did so without any agreement with the OAG, or promises or guarantees by the OAG, regarding the pending charges against the CI. The CI’s cover story was that he was a Philadelphia lobbyist who was now representing larger business interests and wanted to move from local political candidates/elected officials to the state level. The OAG fitted the CI with a recording device that the CI consented to wearing. He ultimately recorded 113 separate meetings or conversations with various Pennsylvania state legislators, public officials and other related individuals.

The CI then began floating “pay for play” ideas or issues to his political connections. The goal was to document elected officials taking bribes to conduct their duties. Almost without fail, the public officials with whom the CI met – and to whom he gave money or gifts – were all too willing to take official action on his behalf. One such official was Thomasine Tynes.

After one elected official promised but failed to set up a meeting with Judge Tynes over a collections contract for Traffic Court, a second elected official did set up a meeting between the CI and Judge Tynes. In that initial meeting and subsequent ones, the CI and Judge Tynes discussed working together to try and obtain a collections contract for one of the CI’s fictitious clients to collect fines owed to the Traffic Court. As Judge Tynes provided inside information to the CI, the CI told her that they both would benefit monetarily from the endeavor and that he also could help her with her post-retirement plans.

In fact, in their first private meeting together, the CI and Tynes immediately began discussing making money together:

THOMASINE TYNES: He says to me, people always say to me that I look different than other women. I says, well because I dress every day. I don’t wear stuff like I’m going to the park. I never do.
CI: We’re not going to the park, right? We’re trying to go to the bank. Thank you.
[both laughing]
THOMASINE TYNES: Dealing with the greens.

Judge Tynes then promised that she would speak with the administrative judge of the Traffic Court about a collections contract and to set up a meeting between the CI and the judges. Three days later, Judge Tynes called the CI and told him that she had spoken with the administrative judge, and that he wanted a written proposal to consider.

At a lunch meeting almost two months after their first meeting, the CI and Judge Tynes toasted to their “plans for the future.” The CI then gave Judge Tynes a gift: a sterling silver bracelet with personalized charms that he had purchased for over $2,000 at the Tiffany & Co. store on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The CI made clear that he was giving the bracelet to Judge Tynes because: “I brought you a little token of our appreciation for helping us negotiate this Traffic Court contract.” Judge Tynes was “ecstatic” to receive the “gorgeous” gift, which was packaged in the distinct Tiffany box and bag. Fifteen minutes after giving her a $2,000 bracelet, the CI told Judge Tynes that, as she was helping him and his clients with the Traffic Court collections contract, he would “be helpful” to her and her post-retirement plans. Judge Tynes, in turn, continued to provide advice and inside information to the CI that would help him pitch his collections contract idea to the administrative judge of the Traffic Court. They then toasted “to making money” together. Later that night, Judge Tynes introduced the CI to the administrative judge at an event that the administrative judge was hosting.

Judge Tynes never returned the Tiffany & Co. bracelet to the CI. She never gave him a check in return for the bracelet. And she never listed that bracelet as a gift in her Statement of Financial Interest for the year 2011, the year in which the CI gave her the $2,000 bracelet. Judge Tynes also never filed a Statement of Financial Interest in 2012, her last year on the bench as a Traffic Court judge.

In interviews with the Philadelphia Inquirer for articles that were published on March 16 and 18, 2014, Judge Tynes was confronted with allegations that she took a bracelet from the CI. Although she acknowledged meeting with the CI and discussing a collections contract with him, Judge Tynes presented various contradictory – and false – explanations about those meetings and the bracelet. She claimed that she met the CI only twice, and that the first meeting was over lunch with Elected Official B. Judge Tynes then claimed that the second meeting with the CI was on her birthday, and it was on this day that the CI gave her the bracelet. She claimed in her interview that, at first, she thought it was an inexpensive trinket, but she later took it to the Tiffany & Co. store on Walnut Street in Philadelphia and had it appraised. According to the Inquirer, she then “provided a series of evolving accounts of what she did with the bracelet.” Initially, she said that about five months after receiving the bracelet, she mailed it back to the CI. Later, Tynes, through her attorney, told the Inquirer that she had obtained cashier’s checks to pay back the CI but could not find his address. The lawyer also said that Tynes lost track of the bracelet and did not know where it was. Days later, Tynes told the Inquirer that she “recently found it in her safe deposit box.” Tynes also claimed that she never wore the bracelet, and that she would not know the CI “from a can of paint.”

CHARGES

Based on the evidence obtained and considered the members of the 27th Investigating Grand Jury recommended that Thomasine Tynes be charged with:

Criminal conspiracy (F-3)
Bribery in official and political matters (F-3)
Conflict of interest (F)
Failure to make required disclosures in financial interest statement (M)
Failure to file statement of financial interests (M)

District Attorney Seth Williams Statments About Arrest of Former Traffic Court Judge Tynes

October 23, 2014

“Today we announce the first – but not the last – results of the investigation of political corruption I assumed this summer from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Last Friday, a Philadelphia County investigating grand jury voted to issue a presentment against former Philadelphia Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes, for charges including bribery, conflict of interest, and conspiracy. At 7:00 this morning, Judge Tynes surrendered to state police troopers and detectives of this office. Following discussions with Judge Tynes and her attorney, we have agreed to bail conditions, and the case will be scheduled shortly for further proceedings.

Needless to say, in the months since this matter arose, a great deal has happened that has served to distract public attention from the underlying case, whether by design or otherwise. Those external events have taken on a life of their own; they continue to swirl through the news cycles.

Whatever the merits of those other matters may be, I believe it’s important to remember where we started – with evidence of widespread, yet supposedly not prosecutable political corruption.

As it turns out, however, and as the grand jury has now found, the facts in at least one case so far are about as simple as they probably seemed to average citizens back at the beginning.

This is the bracelet.

It’s a $2,000, Tiffany charm bracelet, the bracelet that Judge Tynes received for promising special access to a businessman who said he was seeking an exclusive, and lucrative, government contract.

As the presentment lays out, the businessman met with two elected officials and an executive of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, who directed him to Judge Tynes. In a series of conversations, the businessman spelled out what he wanted, and the judge promised to deliver.

We know the exact words, because the businessman was wired for sound. At their first private meeting, the businessman said, “We’re not going to the park, right? We’re trying to go to the bank.” The judge responded, “Dealing with the greens.”

At their next meeting, the businessman handed the judge the Tiffany bracelet, in its Tiffany blue box and bag, as, quote, “a little token of our appreciation for helping us negotiate this Traffic Court contract.” The businessman assured the judge that she would be treated as a “consultant” on his business arrangements. He told her, “We could set it up so that you never have to work a day in your life.”

After the judge promised to meet with the court’s administrative judge later that day, the two toasted their deal. “To making some money together,” said the businessman. “To making money,” responded the judge.

The businessman mentioned that, from time to time, he might have some clients with Traffic Court problems. “Just call me,” said the judge. “I’ll deal with them.”

Months later, after she was called before a federal grand jury, the judge contacted the businessman and told him she wanted to pay him for the Tiffany bracelet. But she never did. She never returned it. She never reported it.

And that’s where things stood until this past March – when I learned of this case along with everyone else in Pennsylvania. It took a while, but eventually my office received some of the materials from the investigative file. In June, we convened a grand jury. I stated then publicly, that the public deserved to know what happened, I stated then that the public and the accused deserved due process, and that I would give it to them. That was four months ago. Things might have moved even faster, but there have been some disappointing, frustrating delays that I am not free to discuss at this point.

What I can say, however, is that this investigation was not dead on arrival, is definitely not over, and is most definitely moving ahead. We know there are others who have intimate knowledge of these events. We urge them to come forward to share what they know, before the investigation goes forward without their information.

I would like to acknowledge the grand jurors, who are still working hard, and in secret. And I would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police, who have been working with us in this investigation. We also extend our thanks to the Pennsylvania House Ethics Committee, which has agreed with our request that the grand jury investigation proceed before the Committee takes further action, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and preclude any potential conflicts. We greatly appreciate the Committee’s cooperation.

When there is more to report, we will be back. Thank you.”

House Bill 1091

October 7, 2014

On Monday, October 6, 2014, The House of Representatives took a stand against the escalating gun violence in the city of Philadelphia and passed House Bill 1091. The legislation would increase the sentence for illegally carrying of a firearm in Philadelphia under Title 18, Section 6108 to a third degree felony and add a mandatory minimum sentence of at least two years of total confinement; currently the offense is a misdemeanor.

“I thank the legislature for their important votes on House Bill 1091,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “House Bill 1091 will help us make the City of Philadelphia and its neighboring communities safer by providing additional tools in our fight against gun violence. It is the criminals who carry guns illegally who are responsible for the tragic losses of too many Philadelphians, like three year-old Tynirah Borum. In August I stood alongside Representative John Taylor, Senator Larry Farnese and District Attorneys from the counties surrounding Philadelphia just around the corner from where she was shot and killed. We spoke out about the need for better legislation that would take firearms out of the hands of criminals and make our streets safer. Just a day after that press conference, there was a shooting a few blocks away from that location, making the need for HB 1091 even clearer and more urgent.”

“I would like to thank State Representative Taylor for his great leadership in sponsoring this bill and being a champion for a safer Philadelphia,” continued DA Williams. “Senator Farnese has also provided extensive work and support with his companion bill in the Senate and we extend our gratitude to him is well. I would also like to acknowledge the District Attorneys from our surrounding counties—Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester—who stood beside us in support of this legislation.”

Philadelphia Postal Worker Charged with Stealing and Embezzling Over $28,000 From Post Office

October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office Special Investigations Unit has charged 36-year-old Felicia Townsend with Receiving Stolen Property, Theft, Unlawful use of a Computer, and Tampering with Public Records. Townsend, of the 400 block of N. Simpson Street, is charged with selling money orders at several United States Postal Service (USPS) locations, voiding the orders once the customer leaves, and then pocketing the money from the transactions. Townsend began working at the USPS as a temporary holiday employee in 1996, and she was hired as a fulltime employee in 2011.

In January of 2014, the USPS Office of the Inspector General received a complaint that two of its finance stations, the John Wanamaker Station on Market Street and the Land Title Station on S. Broad Street, had a number of money orders that were cashed but were never reported as sold or issued. Upon further investigation it was determined that the money orders were sold to postal customers but subsequently voided by Felicia Townsend. Townsend was even recorded on surveillance tapes making the transactions and then voiding the orders. The investigation revealed that Townsend stole $28,642.31 in fraudulently voided money orders from the USPS from October 19, 2013 through April 8, 2014.

Felicia Townsend was arrested on September 30, 2014, and she was scheduled for a status hearing today. ADA Brad Bender is specially assigned to this case.

Philadelphia DHS Worker Charged with Stealing Close to $18,000 in SEPTA Tokens

October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014: A joint investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Public Corruption Task Force and the Philadelphia Inspector General’s Office has led to the arrest of 30-year-old Shamira Hawkins-Worthey. Hawkins-Worthey, of the 3000 block of N. 9th Street, is now facing 1576 counts of Theft, Forgery and Tampering with Public Records charges. Hawkins-Worthey worked for the City of Philadelphia as a Department of Human Services (DHS) Social Worker Services Manager, and is charged with submitting fraudulent overtime expenses and stealing SEPTA fare tokens from the agency.

Shamira Hawkins-Worthey has been employed by the city since November 20, 2006, and her responsibilities included providing services to her DHS clients. One of the services required that she obtain SEPTA fare tokens for those clients. These tokens are provided to children, parents and family members who must commute to court hearings, medical appointments, visitation and other official events consistent with the Department’s child welfare mission. DHS purchases the tokens at full price from SEPTA, and protocol requires that social workers submit written requests citing the case number of their client, identifying the intended recipient of the tokens, detailing the reason for the request and the amount of tokens being requested.

In September of 2013, a DHS Administrative Supervisor noticed that Hawkins-Worthey had requested and received a total of 300 SEPTA tokens during a two day period–which was an unusually high request. Further investigation revealed that those requests were for cases that were inactive or closed.

The Inspector General’s Office then conducted an audit of SEPTA token requests made by Hawkins-Worthey, and it was discovered that for nine months beginning January in 2013 she submitted 640 requests and received 11,474 tokens totaling $17,784.20. Of those requests, 366 contained supervisor signatures that were confirmed as forgeries. Several forms contained signatures of supervisors who were absent or on leave, and many of the DHS cases that Hawkins-Worthey cited on the request forms were either closed, inactive or did not exist.

During this investigation, Hawkins-Worthey was reassigned to an administrative position within DHS and was instructed by one of her supervisors that she was not permitted to work overtime. Despite this prohibition however, Hawkins-Worthey submitted three Authorization for Overtime Slips. An investigation into these slips revealed that Hawkins-Worthey had forged her supervisors’ signatures on these requests and a review of Hawkins-Worthey’s ID Swipe card for those days revealed that she did not gain entry by using her card nor was she encountered by others who did work those days. A subsequent DHS audit of Hawkins-Worthey’s overtime slips revealed that she had requested overtime for 76 cases between April and October of 2013. Of the 76 cases, 20 cases were determined to have been closed and 8 cases did not exist at all in the database. The fraudulent overtime for that time period amounted to a total of $6,372.34.

Shamira Hawkins-Worthey’s theft and fraud cost the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services a total of $24,156.54.

“I have no words for the actions of this person,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Instead of helping some of the most vulnerable people in our city, she chose to use her position with DHS to line her own pockets. It’s sad and very, very wrong. I commend Inspector General Kurland and her office for their excellent work on this case.”

“All City employees have an obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. That obligation is even more sacred when funds were designated to help some of Philadelphia’s residents who are most in need,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “I would like to thank District Attorney Williams and the Philadelphia Police Department for their assistance in this case. It demonstrates the importance of the close partnerships the Office of the Inspector General has forged with law enforcement agencies, including the District Attorney’s Office. We continue to work side-by-side to safeguard Philadelphia residents’ trust in their government.”

The defendant turned herself into authorities this morning and she is currently being processed by Central Detectives.

Recent Arrests and Arraignments

October 6, 2014

October 3, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office has charged
24-year-old Kenneth Allen with Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), Criminal Mischief and Possession of an Instrument of a Crime (PIC). Allen, a Philadelphia Police Officer, is charged with assaulting a female Philadelphia police officer on four different occasions. Allen and the other officer were in a relationship at the time of the assaults. Allen was arraigned overnight, and his bail was set at $20,000. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on October 20, 2014 in courtroom 906.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged 45-year-old
Jemal Johnson with Kidnapping, Indecent Deviant Sexual Intercourse
(IDSI), Sexual Assault, Unlawful Restraint, Indecent Assault, Simple
Assault, False Imprisonment, REAP, and Impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer. Johnson, a Lt. with the Philadelphia Fire Department, is accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him on October 1, 2014. Johnson told the victim he was a police officer and that he would arrest her if she did not perform the sex act on him. Johnson was arraigned overnight, and his bail was set at $100,000. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on October 16, 2014 in courtroom 906.

Philadelphia Firefighter Charged with Domestic Abuse Assault

October 3, 2014

October 2, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office has charged 38 year old Michael Lawson and 28 year old Sada Greenlee with
Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy, Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), Possession of Instrument of a Crime (PIC), Terroristic Threats, Simple Assault and other related charges for assaulting Lawson’s ex-wife and her current boyfriend. Lawson’s ex-wife is currently eight months pregnant. The pair are charged for two assaults, the first occurred on September 15, 2014 and the second on September 30, 2014. Lawson and Greenlee were arraigned overnight, bail was set at $75,000 each, and their next court date is scheduled for October 20, 2014 in courtroom 906.

Three People Charged for Center City Attack

September 23, 2014

September 23, 2014: The District Attorney’s Office has approved arrest warrants in connection with the assault of a gay couple on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street in Philadelphia on September 11, 2014. The individuals to be charged are 24-year-old Philip Williams, 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, and 24-year-old Katherine Knott. All three defendants are from Bucks County. Each will be charged with two (2) counts of Aggravated Assault, two (2) counts of Simple Assault, two (2) counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), and one (1) count of Criminal Conspiracy. Once charged the defendants will be arrested by police.

“I would like to thank the police for their thorough investigation and the public for the outpouring of information and tips in this case,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “This vicious attack shocked the entire country. An assault on people because of their sexual orientation has no place in Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Will Re-Try Gerald Gibson

September 19, 2014

September 19, 2014: Today, the Honorable Diana Anhalt declared a mistrial in the theft case against Gerald Gibson. Jurors were not able to reach a unanimous verdict on all charges against the former Philadelphia police officer. Those charges included Theft, Obstruction of the Administration of Law, and Receiving Stolen Property for a January 2013 incident that occurred while Gibson was on duty as a narcotics officer. On January 31, 2013, Gibson was recorded on video by Federal Agents taking currency from a staged vehicle.

“This is just a minor delay in seeking justice,” said ADA Douglas Rhoads. “The Commonwealth looks forward to re-trying this case as soon as possible.”

District Attorney Seth Williams Joins Prosecutors across the Country to Announce New Coalition to Curb Gun Violence

September 19, 2014

September 17, 2014:  In a groundbreaking effort to combat gun violence, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams joined prosecutors from across the United States to announce the formation of PROSECUTORS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE, (PAGV), an independent, non-partisan coalition organized to identify and promote prosecutorial and policy solutions to the national public health and safety crisis of gun violence.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to be working with this group of prosecutors who have been dealing with similar issues of gun violence in their communities,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “By collaborating, identifying best practices, and discussing research I am certain we will make a real difference in improving public safety not only here in Philadelphia, but also across the entire country.”

PAGV was formed and co-chaired by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The group will convene the first-ever prosecutorial summit on gun violence prevention in Atlanta on October 21st and 22nd, focusing on best prosecutorial practices, gang violence reduction, illegal weapons trafficking, the nexus between domestic violence and gun violence, the link between mental health issues and gun violence, and other initiatives.  PAGV will announce additional summit details shortly.

“For prosecutors, gun violence is not a partisan issue,” said District Attorney Vance.  “It’s a public health and safety crisis that claims lives and destabilizes communities in every jurisdiction in America.  By coming together to share intelligence and advocate for pragmatic, non-partisan solutions, law enforcement officials can achieve lasting progress on gun violence.”

“Together, prosecutors across our nation can make a major impact on the gun violence afflicting our communities,” said City Attorney Feuer.  “Our members will draw from our colleagues’ most effective strategies and join forces to advance policies that can save lives.  Prosecutors have expertise and credibility that are hard to dismiss.”

The growing coalition includes prosecutors from Atlanta, Boston, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, Queens, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle and Staten Island.


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