Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

Officer Lupo Charged with Perjury

March 7, 2014

March 7, 2014: Today, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged Philadelphia Police Officer Steven Lupo with Perjury, False Swearing in Official Matters, Unsworn Falsification, False Reports to Law Enforcement and Obstructing Administration of Law.  Officer Lupo’s arrest comes as the result of investigations by Police Internal Affairs, the DA’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), and lengthy Grand Jury proceedings.

The investigation into Police Officer (P/O) Lupo begin after a complaint was made to Internal Affairs Detectives about P/O Lupo’s testimony in court on October 18, 2011.  It was alleged that P/O Lupo, who was assigned to the 14thPolice District, testified falsely during a hearing about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Amiraria Farsi on August 5, 2011.  During the course of that investigation, Internal Affairs Detectives also found evidence that P/O Lupo testified falsely about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Joseph Tuamba on September 25, 2010.

In both arrests P/O Lupo testified in front of Municipal Court Judges at preliminary hearings about the facts in those cases, and it was determined that he gave testimony that was false during those hearings.

In the September 25, 2010 case of Joseph Tuamba, P/O Lupo was on the 100 block of East Chelten Avenue when he and his partner encountered a 2010 Lincoln SKS parked outside a Chinese store.  The officers ultimately arrested the car’s occupants, Joseph Tuamba and Angel Huffman, and charged them with possession of narcotics.  In his testimony, P/O Lupo explained that he could not tell if the car was unoccupied because of the dark tint of the windows, but because the patrol car window was open, he could hear that the car was running.  P/O Lupo maintained that he got out of his patrol car to get a closer look inside it, and as he approached the driver’s side of the vehicle he could smell what he believed was marijuana coming from its interior as Mr. Tuamba emerged from the vehicle.

Three witnesses testified on behalf of Mr. Tuamba at the preliminary hearing.  The first witness, who drove Mr. Tuamba’s vehicle from the scene that night, testified that the vehicle’s windows were not tinted.  The second witness, Mr. Tuamba’s friend who rented the vehicle from Avis Rent-a-Car, testified that at the time she rented it on September 24, 2010, the car did not have any tinted windows.  Finally, an agency operator for Avis Rent-a-Car on September 24, 2010, testified that at the time he rented the vehicle to Ms. Morrow it did not have any tinted windows.  He also testified that when the car was returned to Avis, its windows were not tinted.

The investigation also revealed that P/O Lupo gave false testimony about another arrest that occurred in 2011. On August 5, 2011, P/O Lupo and his partner conducted a vehicle stop of a 1998 Buick Regal driven by Amiraria Farsi, near Baynton and High Streets, after the vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign.  The officers approached the car and saw three males inside – Mr. Farsi and two unnamed males.   When the officers approached they noted a “huge odor of marijuana” emanating from the front sides and trunk area of the vehicle.  First, P/O Lupo removed the rear passenger from the car and frisked him, and then placed the male back in the car.  P/O Lupo approached Mr. Farsi, frisked him and recovered narcotics from his right front pocket.  P/O Lupo also recovered money from Mr. Farsi’s pockets.  Because of the odor of marijuana, the officers requested that a K9 dog be brought to the scene to determine if the dog would “hit on the car for narcotics.”  P/O Lupo also stated that he waited for a search warrant before searching the vehicle, which included going through the vehicle’s trunk.  A videotape from a surveillance camera at the scene showed that P/O Lupo’s account was false and that he searched the inside and trunk of the vehicle before the K9 unit arrived and before the search warrant was approved.

SIU is currently working on when Officer Lupo will surrender himself to authorities.

Four Men Charged with Attempted Murder After Tyring to Intimidate a Witness

February 26, 2014

 A nearly two (2) year joint investigation by the Special Investigations Unit of the District Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Philadelphia Police Department, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania led to the arrests of four individuals for their roles in a plot to intimidate and shoot a witness.

Today, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged 35-year-old Charles Alexander, 42-year-old Troy Cooper, 37-year-old Aki Jones, and 21-year-old Shaheed Williams with Attempted Murder, Witness Intimidation, Aggravated Assault, and Conspiracy.

On November 22, 2010, gunfire erupted on Turner Street following an altercation among several women.  A witness to the shooting called 9-1-1 to report what he saw.  As a result, police arrested Aki Jones for his involvement in the altercation and charged him with firearm and related offenses.

On the day of trial, September 26, 2011, the witness was shot several times at close range while exiting his house in the morning.  The shooter, Shaheed Williams, is an associate of Aki Jones.  Williams first pointed the gun at the witness’ head and fired, striking a hand that covered his head.  Another two shots were fired at the witness as he fled, knocking him down.  Williams caught up to his target and said: “You won’t talk no more.”  He fired the final shot “execution style.”  That shot struck the neck, but, miraculously missed the spinal cord.  Williams’ target survived this brutal shooting.

A joint investigation by an ATF Task Force, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Special Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office uncovered the detailed plan of Aki Jones and his associates to prevent the witness from testifying against Jones.  The plan that ended in this shooting, began when the conspirators, including other associates of Aki Jones – Charles Alexander and Troy Cooper – arranged to bribe the witness with $500 in exchange for not testifying against Jones.  When the witness did not accept the offer, he was shot the next day.

Aki Jones and Shaheed Williams are currently incarcerated on unrelated cases.  Charles Alexander and Troy Cooper were arrested by ATF agents this morning and are currently being processed by the Philadelphia Police Department.

“I first want to applaud the victim in this case,” said District Attorney Seth Williams.  “At a time when too many witness are afraid to go to court because they are intimidated by thugs like these defendants, this victim heroically came forward despite being shot and made sure that justice was not denied.”

“We need to bring an end to the anti-snitching culture that is so pervasive in some of our communities,” added ATF Special Agent in Charge Sam Rabadi. “Gun-toting law breakers who try to silence and intimidate witnesses from coming forward continue to pose a huge threat to the citizens of our city.  The charges and arrests today sends a strong message to criminals that our brave neighborhood residents who do come forward will be heard – loud and clear. If you attempt to intimidate or retaliate against a witness, you will be identified, arrested, and prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.”

The case is assigned to Assistant District Attorney Douglas Rhoads of the Special Investigations Unit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelton Thomas Charged with Stealing Thousands from Elderly Man While Posing as the District Attorney

February 24, 2014

February 24,2013: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged 47-year-old Shelton Thomas with Robbery, Burglary, Dealing in Proceeds, Criminal Trespass, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Theft by Extortion, Theft Receiving Stolen Property, Identity Theft, Use of a Communication Facility and Impersonating a Public Servant after he stole over $95,000 from an elderly man while posing as District Attorney Seth Williams.

For the past three years the defendant scammed at least $95,000 from 93-year-old Raymond Campbell.  Mr. Campbell had hired the defendant to cut his grass, and in June of 2011 the defendant claimed he was arrested for dumping the grass clippings in an unauthorized dumpster.  He then told Mr. Campbell that he had to pay court costs and fees associated with the arrest.  The scam then escalated to the defendant posing as District Attorney Seth Williams, and also using the names of various judges to convince Mr. Campbell to continue giving money to the defendant.  Mr. Campbell’s family tried to convince him that it was a scam but continued to give money to the defendant until last week when the District Attorney personally told Mr. Campbell it was a scam.

It is believed that Mr. Campbell, a WWII vet who has been in the same house for over 60 years, and lives on a modest pension from his over 40 years as a government employee, actually gave over $100,000 to the defendant; though the exact amount is likely much higher.

“This defendant is the lowest of the low,” said District Attorney Seth Williams.  “There are no words to describe the type of person who would steal from someone who’s only short coming is that he is too trusting.  Mr. Campbell fought for our country in World War II, and how is he repaid for that heroic service?  He is scammed out of nearly a hundred thousand dollars by this scumbag Shelton Thomas.”

Shelton Thomas was arrested and arraigned on Friday evening, bail was set at $750,000 and his next court appearance is scheduled for March 7, 2014 in courtroom 703 at the CJC.

The District Attorney’s Office encourages anyone who believes they are the victim, or have an elderly family member who maybe the victim of a scam to call the Philadelphia Police Department SVU at 215-685-3251, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging at 215-765-9040 or email the District Attorney’s Office at justice@phila.gov.

 

 

 

Election Day Arrest

February 20, 2014

February 20, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has 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.

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.

Dianah Gregory surrendered to SIU Detectives this morning and is currently being processed by police.  ADA Douglas Rhoads and Detective Stan Sheppard of the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit are specially assigned to this case.  ADA Linda Montag and ADA Rachel Pereira investigated the Election Day complaint.

 

 

 

 

 

Woman Convicted of Murdering Her Own Mother

February 19, 2014

February 19, 2014: The Honorable Steven R. Geroff today found 35-year-old Jahina Damon guilty but mentally ill of First Degree Murder, Attempted Murder, and other related charges for the 2007 death of Damon’s mother.

On December 20, 2007, Jahina Damon killed her mother by shooting her, dousing her with gasoline, and then setting her on fire inside a home on the 6000 block of  Cobbs Creek Parkway.  Another woman was badly burned in the resulting house fire, but survived.

The defendant presented an insanity defense at a bench trial before Judge Geroff, and he found the defendant guilty but mentally ill.  Jahina Damon is scheduled to be sentencing on May 13, 2014 in Room 707 at the CJC.  Assistant District Attorney Thomas H. Lipscomb successfully prosecuted this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Fraud Ring

February 12, 2014

February 12, 2014: After a two year investigation, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General busted a tax fraud enterprise that has operated for several years and stolen thousands of dollars of taxpayer money.

The ringleader, 38 year old Kenneth Davidson, is a corrections officer at SCI Graterford who moonlighted as a part-time, seasonal tax professional at H&R Block.  Unbeknownst to H&R Block, Davidson used his position to file fraudulent tax returns and obtain multiple refunds worth thousands of dollars.  Davidson would rely on his co-conspirators Yvonne Williams, Ahmad Gray, and Cardell Jackson to provide names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of stolen identities or friends. Herbert Carter was one such friend who provided his information.  An intermediary would create fraudulent W-2 forms that Davidson would use to file the bogus tax returns and obtain tax refunds that were transferred to H&R Block Emerald debit cards or other pre-paid cards. Each member of this fraud ring would then take a cut of the refund as payment for his/her part in the scheme.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged Kenneth Davidson with 104 felony counts including Corrupt Organization, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Forgery, and Theft and also several misdemeanors.  He was arrested and arraigned and his next court date is scheduled for February 14, 2014 in courtroom 406.

Arrangements are being made for the surrender of the other co-defendants who include:

  • Yvonne Williams who is charged with 63 felony counts including Corrupt Organization, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Forgery, and Theft and also several misdemeanors.
  • Ahmad Gray who is charged with 29 felony counts including Corrupt Organization, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Forgery, and Theft and also several misdemeanors.
  • Cardell Jackson who is charged with 25 felony counts including Corrupt Organization, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Forgery, and Theft and also several misdemeanors.
  • Herbert Carter who is charged with 8 felony counts including Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Forgery, and Theft and also several misdemeanors.

The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank H&R Block for its support in investigating this tax fraud scheme.  This case is being prosecuted by ADA Michael J. Bonner and DA Investigator Kristina Crosby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Council Asks About Focused Deterrence Program

February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014:  In April of 2013, the District Attorney’s Office along with the Philadelphia Police Department, United States Attorney’s Office and Mayor’s Office of Re-entry Services launched the Focused Deterrence program.  This innovative violence reduction strategy focused on trying to bring down violent crime in South Philadelphia.

The program brings members from several violent groups operating in the 1st, 3rd and 17th Police Districts to a Violence Reduction meeting.  The meeting, which is named “a Call-In”, allows the Police Commissioner and his staff, the District Attorney and his staff, representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office, the mother of a murdered youth, Ex-offenders, Community Representatives, and a Social Service coordinator to speak directly to individuals and delivering the message that the violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated any more.

Today members of City Council are hearing testimony about Focused Deterrence from the agencies involved in the program.  First Assistant Edward McCann is testifying and below his is testimony.

“Good Afternoon.  My name is Ed McCann, and I am the First Assistant District Attorney of Philadelphia.  I am pleased to be before you with my colleagues to discuss Focused Deterrence today.  My written testimony will provide a brief summary of Focused Deterrence.

Let me say at the outset, Focused Deterrence in Philadelphia has been a great collaboration.  Bryan Lentz, the former Chief of the Gun Violence Task Force, once called this program the coalition of the willing.  That is a very apt phrase.  When we started talking to our partners about this program, we didn’t have any additional resources to give to anyone.  In fact, just about all the agencies involved have committed hundreds of hours of work without additional funding.  All we had was an idea, and the hope that if we all worked together, we could make a meaningful impact on gun violence.  We in the DA’s office are very proud participants in this partnership we have all created, which consists of the Philadelphia Police Department, our office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force, the courts, adult and juvenile probation, the Mayor’s Office, members of City Council and their staffs, PGW, PECO, Comcast, over 30 social service provider agencies, and most importantly, members of 24 community/neighborhood groups.  The citizens of Philadelphia have a right to expect this type of cooperation on an issue as vital as gun violence, but in my nearly 25 years as a prosecutor, I have never seen this level of collaboration.

Focused Deterrence is about prevention, outreach, consequences and accountability.  We all use the term “smart on crime” a lot.  We’d all like to think that what we support and advocate for is smart on crime.  But I can assure you Focused Deterrence unquestionably is very smart on crime.

This is a strategy to reduce group-motivated gun violence currently in South Philadelphia.  As I have stated, this level of collaboration among law enforcement, social services, and the community is unprecedented.  Law enforcement agencies, led by the Philadelphia Police Department and our office, work together to identify the violent groups in South Philadelphia and their members.  The key moment in the strategy is a “call-in,” or “notification,” repeated as necessary: a face-to-face meeting between group members and the partnership.   The partners deliver key messages to group members:  that the violence is wrong and has to stop; that the community needs them alive and out of prison and with their loved ones; that help is available to all who would accept it; and that any future violence will be met with clear, predictable, and certain consequences.

We have conducted three “call ins” to this point.   I think the evidence clearly shows that our message has been heard on the street and I am sure that other witnesses will discuss that.  The group members in South Philadelphia know about this program and the consequences that follow if their group is involved with a shooting.  While there are promising early signs that the program is having a positive effect on reducing violence, we have still had to conduct several enforcement actions after we have determined that a shooting or homicide is group motivated.  David Kennedy’s National Network for Safe Communities, in addressing enforcement actions, explains that “these enforcement actions pursue serious consequences for the “shooter,” the individual who committed the (prohibited) violent act, AND seek to bring some type of legal sanction, informal sanction or uncomfortable attention to as many of that individual’s group associates as possible for any crimes they may be committing. The purpose of this group focus is to hold groups and gangs collectively accountable for the violence, and by doing so, to reduce the group dynamic that drives much urban violence.

I would point out that the National Network for Safe Communities recently held a working session in New Orleans, in part to highlight the Philadelphia Police Departments South Gang Task Force, which they described as an extremely creative line level operation that can serve to advance practice amongst leading practitioners nationally.  So while this program has only been running in South Philadelphia for less than a year, the Police Department’s enforcement strategy is already being recognized nationally as a best practice for other jurisdictions to follow.

The District Attorney’s Office has expended enormous amounts of time and resources in helping to shape and implement Focused Deterrence, as have all of our partners.  It has been well worth the commitment, and our commitment will continue.  We think this strategy has the potential to have a substantial impact on reducing violence in South Philadelphia, and look forward to continuing the collaborative work we have started here.”

 

 

Domestic Violence Diversion Court

February 5, 2014

Domestic Violence Diversion Court launched on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, as part of an ongoing initiative to create and maintain problem-solving courts to address various some of the issues experienced by DV defendants: this includes drug abuse, mental illness, and in particular, the violence, anger, or controlling behavior that underlies domestic abuse. The program will be overseen by President Judge Marsha Neifield, and today’s list was handled by ADA Marian Braccia.

Offenders who choose to participate in this program will be assessed to determine their various treatment needs and the social services that will most benefit them, the victims, their families, and society in general. This program is open to offenders who have victimized someone with whom their share a close personal relationship, whether it’s an intimate or romantic relationship, or a blood or family relationship.

Generally, the program will last for a six-month period. During that time, the charges will remain active and pending against each defendant. Participants will also undergo treatment at one of two designated facilities, Menergy or the Men’s Resource Center. The treatment facility will be determined by the facts and circumstances of each case. If, at the end of the treatment period, a participant has successfully completed all the terms of DV Diversion Court, incurred no new arrests, paid restitution and all fines and costs, and not engaged in any assaultive or harmful behavior toward the victim, prosecution will be withdrawn by the Commonwealth. Sanctions including expulsion from the program or entry of a sentence on the open charges may result from non-compliance with the recommended course of treatment or the rule of DV Diversion Court.

The District Attorney’s Office looks forward to this program addressing the specific problem of domestic violence in our community and maintaining the safety and dignity of Domestic Violence survivors everywhere.

A Grand Jury Holds Multiple People and Agencies Responsible for Deadly York Street Fire

February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014:  Lieutenant Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney lost their lives on April 9, 2012 fighting a five alarm fire at the former Thomas Buck Hosiery factory warehouse on York Street.  While two of our bravest and finest are no longer here because they were protecting the city, sadly it’s a lack of protection from the city itself that helped lead to the fatal fire.

            After a lengthy, nearly two-year investigation, a Grand Jury has determined that it is not possible to file any criminal charges for the deaths of Lt. Neary and Firefighter Sweeney, or for the serious injuries of two other firefighters that day in 2012.  The Grand Jurors wrote in their findings “this grand jury report is really about a failure of government—the failure of Philadelphia administrative agencies to accomplish the basic functions for which they exist. Unfortunately, we have reluctantly concluded that there is currently no appropriate criminal penalty for the tale of misdeeds we found. While the building owners violated virtually every regulation that got in their way, they were never held accountable for doing so, and we do not believe that the available evidence can establish that their flagrant code violations and tax delinquencies caused the fire that eventually destroyed their property and the firemen’s lives. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned. Had city departments done their job, these deaths might never have occurred.”

The first and most culpable people mentioned in the Grand Jury findings are Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein.  The father and son real estate moguls from New York purchased the former Thomas W. Buck Hosiery factory in 2008 with the promise of re-developing the property.  Instead of helping what was seen as an up-and-coming neighborhood, the Lichtensteins were unscrupulous from the start.  They agreed to pay $730,000 for the property, but only delivered half of that money at closing.  The rest of the money, which took another three years to get, was eventually settled on with the seller for a fraction on the dollar.  

From the moment the Lichtensteins took over control of the property it was clear they did not care about the physical state of the building, or the neighborhood surrounding the property.  They hired supposed caretakers, but didn’t allow them to properly provide maintenance for the huge property.  They turned off the electricity, allowed scrappers to steal cooper and wiring, and did nothing to keep squatters out of the building.  The Lichtensteins did not pay one dime in real estate taxes, or in water and sewer fees, since they bought the York Street property in 2008.  By the time of the fire in 2012, the delinquent taxes totaled near $60,000, and water and sewer fees $13,000. In fact the Lichtensteins are still the legal owners of 1817-41 York Street, which is now only a vacant lot, and still owe the City over $100,000 for the demolition of the burned-out shell.

            However, while the owners’ greed set the stage for the tragedy, city inspectors testified – contrary to a mountain of other evidence – that the property was properly secured and sealed.  And fire experts were unable to determine the precise cause of the fire, or even where it started.  The evidence currently available therefore presented significant barriers to an attempt to prove criminal causation beyond a reasonable doubt.

There was no doubt, though, about the actions, and inactions, of various municipal agencies, in particular the Department of Licenses and Inspections.   As the grand jury report details, L&I repeatedly failed to act on serious building and fire code violations that piled up on York Street.  Inspections were performed, notices were issued – but nothing ever happened.  Despite their regular complaints, neighbors were left with a giant eyesore that soon became a fire trap.

Meanwhile other city agencies, the revenue and law departments, failed either to collect on huge debts owed by the owners, or to seize the property from them.  At one point, for example, the city sent overdue tax notices to the same incorrect address, four times in a row – even as other city officials had the proper address in their records.

Finally, the grand jury also heard evidence, consistent with a report from federal investigators, about shortcomings in fire operations while the blaze was being battled.  Standard operating procedure called for the creation of a collapse zone near the building’s exterior wall.  While the zone was set up, it was not enforced at a crucial moment, when members of Ladder Company 10 were allowed to enter an adjacent structure in the shadow of the wall.  The wall fell, causing death and injury.  The grand jury concluded that better training and technology might have helped prevent the tragedy.

The grand jurors mourn with the families for their loss, and hope that the agencies in question will take this opportunity for true reform.  The evidence presented, however, suggested that improvements have not yet occurred, despite these deaths.

 

Serial Rapist Sentenced to Maximum of 60 Years in Prison

January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014: Commonwealth v. William Walker:  The Honorable Donna Woelpper sentenced 44 year old William Walker to 24 to 60 years in prison today.  Walker, a serial rapist, was arrested in the summer of 2012 for four (4) separate violent rapes of mentally disabled women in the 39th District. 

 On July 14, 2012, Walker met his first victim, a mentally disabled woman who was residing in an assisted living facility. Walker held the victim down with a pillow over her face, beat, choked and raped her, and was later identified through DNA. Walker found his second victim just two blocks away, who was also living at an assisted living facility for the mentally disabled. Walker pulled this victim into a wooded area, beat her about her head and raped her. Again, he was later identified through DNA evidence. The following day, Walker struck again when he found his next victim on the street smoking a cigarette. He dragged this victim into a wooded area, beat her and raped her. This victim, who was also mentally disabled, returned to the group home she was living in with no pants on and blood on her face. Finally, one week later, a Good Samaritan called 911 when he saw Walker dragging a woman down the street. Police interrupted the assault and found Walker leaning over the victim as he pulled up his pants.

Walker pleaded guilty to four counts of rape, one count of Aggravated Assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of Terroristic Threats.  The Court already found him to be a Sexually Violent Predator under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law.  ADA Ashley Lynam of the Family Violence Sexual Assault Unit successfully prosecuted this case.     

 

 

 


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