Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

Two Pennsylvania Lawmakers Charged with Bribery

December 17, 2014

December 16, 2014: Today, District Attorney Seth Williams charged State Representatives Ronald Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown with Criminal Conspiracy, Bribery in Official and Political Matters, Conflict of Interest, and Failure to Make Required Disclosures in Statement of Financial Interests for accepting money in exchange for promised political actions.
The arrests of 64 year old Ron Waters and 48 year old Vanessa L. Brown are the result of a grand jury investigation into political corruption involving various Pennsylvania state legislators, public officials and other related individuals. The matter was submitted to a Philadelphia investigating grand jury after it was requested from the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (“OAG”) in April of 2014. This grand jury investigation is still on-going.

The OAG had conducted its political corruption investigation from 2010 through 2012, which resulted in 113 recorded meetings or conversations. Twenty six (26) of those recordings featured Rep. Ron Waters, who accepted nine (9) cash payments from the CI totaling $8,750. Twenty four (24) of those recordings featured State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, who accepted five (5) cash payments totaling $4,000. That evidence was presented to the grand jury, which found that the cash payments were made because of the representatives’ official positions and their promises to perform official acts on behalf of the CI. Moreover, both representatives testified before the Grand Jury and admitted to their criminal conduct.

Rep. Waters, who has been a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1999 and is currently the Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus, accepted payments from the CI beginning on October 22, 2010. In total, Rep. Waters took $8,750 from the CI, and took or promised to take the following official actions on behalf of the CI: voting “no” on House Bill 934; setting up – and attending – a meeting with an executive at the Philadelphia Parking Authority regarding a collections contract there; and contacting an elected official to help the CI’s friend obtain a job. Rep. Waters testified before the grand jury and admitted to this conduct, and acknowledged that he knew what he was doing was wrong, each time that he did it.

Rep. Brown, who has been a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2009, accepted five payments from the CI beginning on February 11, 2011. In total, Rep. Brown took $4,000 from the CI, and took or promised to take the following official actions on behalf of the CI: voting “no” on House Bill 934; supporting privatization of the State Liquor Stores; promising to vote against “Lifeline,” a program offering discounts on phone service for low-income subscribers; setting up – and attending – a meeting with Thomasine Tynes, former President Judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, regarding a collections contract there; and setting up a social event with other “like-minded” legislators to help the CI broaden his legislative contacts. She also asked the CI what he gets out of the deal, and was willing to vote as directed by the CI. Rep. Brown testified before the grand jury and admitted to this conduct, and acknowledged that she knew what he was doing was wrong, each time that she did it. She also admitted that she knew there were strings attached to the money she was being given.

In addition to the overwhelming evidence of guilt, including the full admissions of Representatives Brown and Waters, the grand jury examined public criticisms about the investigation. In particular, the grand jury investigated claims that the original investigation was “racist,” that the CI was not credible because of the alleged magnitude of his own criminal case, that the subjects of the investigation were “entrapped,” and that a “comprehensive” review by subsequent state officials found no basis for bringing charges. The grand jury found each of those criticism empty.

Regarding the criticism that the investigation employed racial targeting, the grand jury found that such a claim was simply false. The grand jury heard testimony from numerous individuals, both black and white, both former and current state employees, who were involved in the original investigation. The grand jurors found their testimony to be credible. The grand jury also reviewed extensive documents obtained by subpoena. These internal documents demonstrated that there had never been any factual basis to the claim that the investigation was racially targeted. Finally, a high-ranking officer from the administration of the current attorney general testified under oath that “[t]here is absolutely nothing in the case file that would lead one to believe that” the investigation targeted only African-American legislators or ignored wrongdoing by white legislators. The official also testified that he “never for one second believed” that investigators were directed to conduct such an investigation.

With respect to the CI, the grand jury investigated whether his own charges and their resolution crippled this prosecution. After subpoenaing the files in the CI’s case and hearing testimony from current OAG employees who prosecuted that case, the evidence revealed that the total loss amounted to less than $100,000 – sufficient to provide leverage needed to gain his cooperation, but hardly so extreme as to justify dropping a major political corruption probe at precisely the point where the evidence was complete and compelling. Moreover, the CI was hardly the lynchpin of the case; his actions were thoroughly corroborated by the audio- and video-recordings, and he has been doubly corroborated by the testimony of Representatives Brown and Waters. The grand jury, therefore, found nothing concerning the CI that would undermine charging those caught on the tapes.

The grand jury also examined whether any of the legislators were “entrapped.” To that end, the jurors reviewed investigation documents that were created before any recordings had been made, and heard from investigators about how they proceeded. Most tellingly, Representatives Brown and Waters – and Judge Tynes – testified regarding their introductions to the CI and how he was passed from one public official to another. Finally, the grand jury reviewed a document prepared by the current administration of the OAG, which confirmed these findings. In an email between two high-ranking officials there, one stated that the case had “ample predication,” and that “no legislator was entrapped.” The other high-ranking official agreed. And so did the grand jury, finding no sign of entrapment that would undermine its recommended charges.

Finally, the grand jury looked at a “comprehensive” review of the case conducted by the current administration of the OAG, which supposedly exposed fatal weaknesses that made the case impossible to prosecute. That process was difficult because, despite numerous public references to this allegedly comprehensive review, it had never been shared with the public. And despite numerous requests and subpoenas, the grand jury did not receive the document itself until October 31, 2014, many months after the grand jury began its work, and only after a court order. Indeed, on repeated occasions, the grand jury was assured that it had received all relevant materials, only to receive significant additional materials upon judicial intervention. Each new document dump, of course, indicated that the prior representations had been false.

Nevertheless, the grand jury actually found that it was the review, rather than the underlying investigation, that appeared flawed. The review failed to examine a wealth of internal documents – documents created by and in the possession of the OAG – that contradicted the report’s assumptions. The review also failed to include interviews of agents to the investigation or others whose knowledge would have refuted the report’s preferred conclusions.

In short, the grand jury found nothing in the well-publicized “comprehensive” review that undermined its confidence in the recommended charges. The evidence outlined in the presentment is unusually damning, consisting as it does not only of eyewitness accounts, but of hours of tape recordings, and of detailed admissions by the subjects of the investigation themselves. Indeed, the fact that the subjects of the investigation agreed to testify freely before the grand jury is a testament to the strength of the evidence that had been compiled long before this matter was submitted to this grand jury. That evidence must see the light of day, and criminal charges are just and fair.

Representatives Brown and Waters turned themselves in to authorities this morning and are currently being processed by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Center City Lawyer Charged with Engaging in Sex with 14 Year Old Human Trafficking Victim

November 25, 2014

November 25, 2014: Today, the Philadelphia District Attorneys Office charged 56 year old Brian Meehan of Berwyn with Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Statutory Sexual Assault, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, Corrupting the Morals of a Minor, Indecent Assault, Promoting Prostitution of a Minor, and Patronizing Prostitutes for sexual intercourse with a 14 year old girl. The arrest of Brian Meehan comes after a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Special Victims Unit (SVU) investigation.

In April of 2012, SVU Detectives began investigating a Germantown area man and woman accused of forcing girls into prostitution, one of whom was a 14 year old girl. That girl told police that she had been recruited by the couple to have sex with men for money and that they would beat her and threaten to kill her if she tried to leave them. The couple later admitted to police that this young girl was one of five girls that were being prostituted out of their W. Harvey Street house. The couple was arrested and charged with Human Trafficking, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Statutory Sexual Assault, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, Corrupting the Morals of a Minor, Indecent Assault, and Promoting Prostitution of a Minor. The grand jury investigation into this couple is still under investigation, and therefore the names of the couple are not being made public at this time.

The 14 year old victim in this case was taken on multiple “out-calls” to engage in prostitution. An “out-call” is when a girl is taken to a person’s home or place of business to engage in sexual activity with a “john”. The 14 year old victim in this case was taken to “out-calls” at the defendant’s place of employment- a Center City law firm at One Penn Center- several times where he engaged in sex with her for money.

During testimony to the Grand Jury, the 14 year old victim was able to describe Meehan’s office and the interactions she had with him in the office. She testified that Meehan engaged in vaginal and oral intercourse with her on several occasions. She also testified that Meehan told her he knew that she was only 14 years old, that he liked younger girls, and that the youngest girl he had sex with was a 12 year old.

On October 10, 2014, SVU detectives executed a search of Meehan’s 1617 JFK Boulevard office and recovered forensic materials consistent with sexual acts occurring in there.

Brian Meehan turned himself in to authorities this morning, and he is currently being processed by police.

Timeline of Events with the 14 year old victim

She meets the couple near her Germantown neighborhood in March of 2012
The couple recruits her and then forces into prostitution
She works in Philadelphia for a month
She is then sold to a man in Camden, NJ for several hundred dollars
While in Camden she is brought to the hospital in April of 2012 for severe vaginal pain and trauma
She leaves the hospital and is returned to the Germantown couple
She is recruited by another pimp who convinces her to travel with him to Georgia
She is in Georgia for approximately a year, that is when Federal authorities identified her as a victim of human trafficking
Philadelphia investigators are able to meet with the victim in March of 2014, and that is when they began the investigation of Brian Meehan
• November 25, 2014, Brian Meehan is arrested by

Statement from District Attorney Seth Williams about Charges Being Dropped Against Tomayo McDuffy

November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014: “Today my office withdrew charges against Tomayo McDuffy that arose from an alleged home invasion last year in Northeast Philadelphia. Although the original charging decision was appropriate based on the evidence then available, further information has now persuaded us that the evidence is not clear enough to warrant a trial.

This was a highly unusual case involving an apparently blind complaining witness, a service dog, and conflicts among neighbors and family members.

The original incident dates to May 2013. The complainant reported that two men had broken into her home in the middle of the night, that she recognized one of them by his voice as her next-door neighbor, and that her dog scared off the intruders and fetched her phone to call 911. Police responding to the scene found that the basement door had been forced open and that gas burners on the stove had been turned on.

In July 2013 an article in the Daily News raised questions about the victim’s account, quoting neighbors on the block and estranged relatives of the victim. The following week the judge reduced bail, but allowed the case to proceed.

In September 2013, the defendant made bail and was released from custody. Trial was accordingly scheduled for the fall of 2014. A request for a voice identification lineup was withdrawn by the defense in October of 2013.

New counsel entered an appearance for the defendant in December 2013, and provided us with a packet of information in May 2014. We followed up on that information, and eventually developed additional evidence raising substantial concerns about the victim’s prior history and visual acuity. A new voice lineup was held this month, resulting in a misidentification.

As a result, I have concluded that this case cannot proceed. As always in such circumstances, we must be fair both to the complainant and the defendant. Sometimes that takes time; the overburdened criminal justice system seldom moves as fast as it should. The last several years have seen major reforms that have significantly augmented and expedited the charging and investigative process for most cases. But there is always more to do, and we must and will do our part to seek justice in every case. I am thankful for all who helped to achieve this just result; my staff, defense counsel, the media, and all concerned members of the community who shared information with us.”

Raphael Stewart Convicted of First Degree Murder for 1998 Killing

November 20, 2014

November 18, 2014: Today, exactly 16 years to the date that he committed his crimes, defendant Raphael Stewart was convicted of First Degree Murder, Criminal Conspiracy, Attempted Murder and Possessing an Instrument of Crime for the November 18, 1998 killing of Darris Cuthbert and shooting of Omar Johnson.

Raphael Stewart and his co-defendant Jaime Kirnon believed that Darris Cuthbert and Omar Johnson had robbed their drug house. After an argument, Stewart shot Cuthbert five times- killing him. Kirnon shot Johnson eight times, but due to quick action by Philadelphia Police, who were one block away when they received the radio call, Johnson survived his injuries. An eyewitness to the murder, Danny Milton, removed a gun from Omar Johnson’s waistband and tried to take him to the hospital. Police arrived quickly, and Milton was taken to the Homicide Division instead to give a statement. Both Johnson and Milton identified the defendants as the shooters. After the defendant was arrested, Johnson was unlocatable, and Milton was presumed dead. As a result the case was nolle prossed in 2000.

However, Homicide Detective Joe Centeno did not believe that Milton was dead and continued to search for him. On April 10, 2001, Detective Centeno found Milton on the very corner where the murder had occurred in 1998. Charges were reinstated against Raphael Stewart and Jaime Kirnon. Kirnon was arrested in 2001, tried and convicted; Stewart was unlocatable and a bench warrant issued for his arrest. Stewart was finally arrested in September of 2013.

After less than an hour and a half of deliberating, jurors convicted Stewart of First Degree Murder and all related charges. The Honorable Steven Geroff immediately sentenced him to Life in prison without the possibility of parole. Deputy District Attorney Jodi Lobel and ADA Brett Furber successfully prosecuted this case.

Former Court Administrator Charged with Stealing Bail Money

November 20, 2014

November 18, 2014: Today, the Philadelphia District Attorneys Office Public Corruption Task Force (PCTF) charged 42-year-old Steven Martorano, a former First Judicial District Bail Acceptance Unit Supervisor, with Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and Tampering with Public Records for stealing over $150,000 in bail money from the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF). Martorano turned himself in to PCTF detectives this afternoon and he is currently being processed by police.

Martorano’s arrest comes as a result of a lengthy Grand Jury investigation. Grand Jurors found that between September 17, 2010 and February 8, 2011, thirteen (13) bank deposit bags with bail money totaling $155,440.00 disappeared from the First Judicial District’s Bail Acceptance Unit located at the CFCF. Records related to those funds, specifically, Brinks logbooks and the manual bail binder-government records maintained by the First Judicial District -also disappeared. Extensive evidence presented to the Grand Jury established that Steven Martorano stole this money and intentionally and unlawfully removed and concealed those records.

The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (FJD) collects bail from two different Bail Acceptance Unit locations. The main office of the Bail Acceptance Unit is located at the Criminal Justice Center (CJC). That bail office is in the basement and is operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A satellite office, established in August of 2007, is located inside the CFCF.

The CFCF office is a small room that is accessible through a door inside the visitor lobby. That door is at all times kept locked, and the public is not permitted to enter the office. Bail transactions are conducted through a window between the office and the visitor lobby. During the subject time period, there was no surveillance equipment at the office, which operated, with some deviations, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. After operation hours, the FJD employees could access the office at any time. The office is not within the secure perimeter of the prison. Therefore, FJD employees are not subjected to searches when they enter or leave the office. Keys to the office door are only given only to FJD employees. Prison officials and employees do not have keys to the doors or access to the office.

The bail acceptance units are staffed by full and part-time cashiers. It is the cashiers’ primary duty and responsibility to collect the money posted for bail, document the transactions, and deposit the money in a safe located within the bail office. The paramount duty of the supervisor is to conduct and document the process through which the money is collected from the safe and delivered to the Brinks messenger. At the end of their shifts, the cashiers count the money they collected, fill out a bank deposit slip, and place the slip, along with the money, into a deposit bag provided by Wells Fargo Bank. The deposit bags are of the heavy-duty, tamper-proof type, with a double seal, which prevents reopening. After sealing the bags, which are sequentially numbered and utilized in numerical order, the cashiers enter the bag number in their “cashier drawer”, and deposit the bag in the office safe.

The safe at the CFCF has a hopper on the top of it, which is a round cylinder with a slit on the top. The cashiers deposit the bag into that cylinder and crank the handle. The bank deposit bag rolls over and drops into the safe. The cashiers are not supposed to have the combination to the safe and cannot retrieve the bag once it is tumbled. Policy of the bail acceptance unit dictates that the cashiers should always seal their bags before tumbling them in the safe. Martorano, despite being thoroughly trained in these policies, regularly instructed his cashiers not to seal their bags when there was a problem detected with their work for that day, such as a discrepancy between their count of the money, and the total amount indicated in their computerized “drawer”. Martorano told the cashiers to wrap a rubber band around the bag and its contents, claiming he would recount the money and try to resolve their issues for them. No other bail acceptance supervisor instructed their cashiers to tumble unsealed bags into the safe.

Martorano was the sole supervisor in charge of the Bail Acceptance Unit at the CFCF, and was trained in the protocol for the handling of the bags of money. Prior to May of 2010, Martorano was responsible for transporting the bail money to the bank in the northeast section of the city or the CJC in center city. On a couple of occasions, Martorano was observed with the money deposit bags inside his home in South Philadelphia, located in the 3200 block of Chaucer Street , which was not on the route from the CFCF to the bank or to the CJC. Martorano was never, under any circumstances, authorized to take the money anywhere other than the bank or the CJC. Further, there was no legitimate reason for Martorano to bring money home, or to perform any tasks concerning the money outside the secure confines of the CFCF bail office, which was accessible to him 24 hours a day seven (7) days a week.

In May of 2010, Brinks began rendering services at CFCF. In preparation for the Brinks pickup at CFCF, Martorano was supposed to open the safe, remove the bank deposit bags and line them up in numerical order. It was his duty to ensure that all of the bags were present. If the bank deposit bags were not sequential it would be a signal to him that there was a possibility of a missing deposit bag. He was required to resolve this problem immediately by stopping all activity in the Bail Acceptance office, contacting his immediate supervisor, and searching thoroughly until the bag was found. Once all the bags were accounted for, Martorano was required to fill out the Brinks logbook by documenting each bank deposit bag that he turned over to Brinks, and the amount of money that the bag contained. The last step in the process was to present the money bags to the Brinks messenger, who would verify their receipt by signing off on the Brinks logbook that Martorano prepared. Martorano should have then secured the logbook somewhere inside the CFCF bail office. During the subject theft period, Martorano never reported any problems with missing bags to his superiors.

In March of 2010 the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, responsible for the accounting of the collected bail money was dissolved. It was well known, and even documented in the local newspapers, that the Clerk of Quarter Sessions was lax in its financial management. The First Judicial District was now tasked with the responsibility of performing the bank reconciliations for the Bail Acceptance Unit. In December of 2010 they began the process. On February 8, 2011, the FJD Deputy Court Administrator in charge of Financial Services called a meeting with his accounting staff and all Bail Acceptance Unit supervisory personnel. In attendance was Martorano. At the meeting it was discussed that the reconciliations were behind and that new accounting procedures were going to be put in place. It was mandated that the same group would meet weekly until the accounts at the bail acceptance unit (both locations) were reconciled and up to date. Martorano was requested to provide the accounting staff the CFCF Brinks logbooks and manual bail binder. Martorano never attended any future meetings nor did he provide the logbooks and bail binder. Instead, on February 22, 2011, he suddenly and unexpectedly resigned from his job after ten years of employment with the FJD. The logbooks and bail binder disappeared as well.
Based on their reconciliation findings, as well as an internal audit and preliminary investigation, the FJD determined that between September 2010 and February 8, 2011, thirteen bank deposit bags totaling $155, 440 from the bail acceptance unit at CFCF were never picked up by Brinks nor deposited into the FJD bank account. No thefts have occurred since Martorano’s resignation. The matter was referred to the District Attorney’s Office for investigation.

Martorano owned various businesses while he was employed with the FJD: a helicopter business, operating under the names of Bella Choppers and Independence Helicopter; a pizza shop, Is-A-Bella Pizza; and a company called Bella Investment Properties. None of his businesses have been profitable. Martorano kept separate bank accounts for himself, his daughter and his businesses. During the period of the subject thefts, from September 2010 through February 2011, when Martorano had unfettered access to the cash at the bail acceptance unit at CFCF, Martorano made a total of $131,908 in cash deposits into those accounts. During the same time period a year later, September 2011 through February 2012, when he was no longer employed by the FJD, the cash deposits into those same accounts dropped precipitously, to a total of $27,796. Thus, Martorano deposited $104,112 more during the theft period.

Members of the Grand Jury determined that Martorano routinely flouted the rules and violated the protocols concerning the bail money, as demonstrated by his engaging in activities such as: taking the money bags home; instructing the cashiers to place unsealed bags in the safe; and commanding a subordinate to deliver only some of the bags to Brinks for pickup. That conduct, coupled with his unfettered access to the cash, foreshadowed and was consistent with Martorano’s theft of the deposit bags. The lax oversight by the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, as evidenced by Martorano’s statement to an employee he supervised that “nobody questioned” him, provided the opportunity for his thefts, and his precarious financial state stands as a motive.

RECOMMENDATION OF CHARGES

Based upon the evidence in this case members of the 26th Philadelphia County Investigating Grand Jury recommend that Steven R. Martorano be charged with the following offenses:

Theft by Unlawful Taking (F-3) – 13 counts
Receiving Stolen Property (F-3) – 13 counts
Tampering with Public Records or Information (F-3) – 3 counts

New Election Fraud Task Force

November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014: Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has created a new task force that will investigate and prosecute all allegations of criminal activity during elections. The new Election Fraud Task Force is part of the office’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), and is comprised of ADAs and detectives who will be specially assigned to Election Day allegations. In the past the investigation and prosecution of Election Day crimes were assigned based on where and when the complaints came into the office.

“This Task Force is another tool for my office to ensure that all crime in Philadelphia is investigated thoroughly, and prosecuted swiftly,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “For far too long it has been assumed that Election Day in Philadelphia involves inappropriate actions at the polls. I want those assumptions to end now. The new Election Fraud Task Force helps guarantee that my office will not only thoroughly investigate Election Day complaints, we arrest and prosecute the culprits.”

“No eligible Philadelphia voter should be impeded from casting a ballot,” said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan Interim President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. “The Committee of Seventy applauds the District Attorney’s Office for taking aggressive and prompt action to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute anyone who engages in elections-related criminal conduct.”

“The District Attorney has shown a real commitment to making the integrity of elections a priority,” added City Commissioner Al Schmidt. “The creation of the Election Fraud Task Force will help Philadelphians be confident that elections in our city are conducted in a fair manner.”

Today, the Election Fraud Task Force charged 64-year-old Oxana Turetsky of the 1200 block of Unruh Avenue with Tampering with Records, Criminal Mischief and Tampering with Voting Machines. Ms. Turetsky is scheduled to turn herself in to authorities later today.

On May 20, 2014, police responded to a complaint at the polling location for the 53rd Ward, 13th Division of Philadelphia on the 6900 block of Summerdale Avenue. The Judge of Elections there notified police that Oxana Turetsky had written her name in ink on the voting machine at that location. Upon inspection, the officer confirmed that the name “Oxana Turetsky” was handwritten on the machine next to the box for “write in” candidates. Turetsky, a write-in candidate for committeeman, later admitted to writing her name on the voting machine.

In February of this year, the Election Fraud Task Force charged 65-year-old Dianah Gregory with Fraud by Election Officers, Tampering with Records, Criminal Mischief, and Tampering with Voting Machines for her actions during the November 5, 2013 election. Dianah Gregory pleaded guilty to Tampering with a Voting Machine in an open plea on May 27, 2014. She was sentenced by the Honorable Michael Erdos to fifteen (15) months of probation.

The investigation into Dianah Gregory began when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office received a complaint on Election Day at the Ethel Allen School polling site located at 31st & Lehigh Avenue. On location, a candidate for “Judge of Election,” William Thompson, explained that a voter left the polling site visibly upset after Dianah Gregory reportedly entered the voting booth and attempted to make a “write in” vote on the voter’s behalf.

The voting booth was then examined as part of the investigation. The detective observed the name “Dianah Gregory” was written in marker on the voting booth. The name was scrawled next to the button to select a “write in” candidate. Still on location, Dianah Gregory admitted that she wrote her name on the voting machines, as she explained, for voters to know how to spell her name.

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.


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