Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY WELCOMES CAMERON L. KLINE AS NEW COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR AND SPOKESPERSON

February 9, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 9, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that Cameron L. Kline will begin serving as his new Communications Director and Spokesperson.

“I’d like to officially welcome Cameron to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office,” said Williams. “Cameron not only brings with him a wealth of communications experience – from neighborhood to non-profit and from political to corporate – to the job, but he is a consummate professional who understands the City of Philadelphia and our amazing neighborhoods.”

Before joining the district attorney’s office, Kline was State Senator Larry Farnese’s (D-Phila.) Communications Director and Senior Advisor. Prior to joining the senator’s office, he was the Press Secretary for State Treasurer Rob McCord’s campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania and the Communications Director for the Philadelphia Gas Works. He has also worked for PECO and the School District of Philadelphia.
Cameron, who lives with his partner in South Philadelphia, has a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois, is a current Board Member for the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and brought national attention to the Boy Scouts of America’s discriminatory policies when he returned his Eagle Scout medal in 2013.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into seven divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Pre-Trial, Investigations, Juvenile Law, and Special Operations. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually. The main office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is located in Center City Philadelphia at The Widener Building, Three South Penn Square. The Juvenile Court and Child Support Unit are located at 1501 Arch Street, and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit is located at 1425 Arch Street. Additionally, the Charging Unit is staffed around the clock in The Widener Building.

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Philadelphia District Attorney Charges Two Philadelphia Police Officers After Grand Jury Investigation

February 6, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 5, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, following a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation, today charged Philadelphia Police Officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson for the beating, in addition to other charges, of Najee Rivera.
“This type of behavior has absolutely no place in our city and I will prosecute these two officers to the fullest extent of the law. Simply put, no one – not even police officers – is above the law,” said District Attorney Williams. “Commissioner Ramsey and his team have been very supportive in this investigation and, like him, I hope these charges send a clear message to every Philadelphian that we intend to use every tool available to us to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe.”
The full list of charges against both officers include: Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Criminal Conspiracy, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Tampering with Public Records or Information, False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities, Obstructing Administration of Law, and Official Oppression.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey joined the District Attorney for the announcement.
Around 10 p.m. on May 29, 2013, near North 7th and Somerset Sts., Officers McKnight, a seven year veteran of the force, and Robinson, a six year veteran of the force, both of the 25th Police District pulled over Najee Rivera on his motor scooter. Rivera became frightened, drove away and was chased by the officers who broke procedure by not using their lights and sirens during the pursuit. At the 2700 block of North 6th St. a business’ surveillance camera captured the officers drive up to Rivera and knock him off his scooter. Both officers then exited their police car, grabbed and repeatedly struck Rivera with their fists and baton while Rivera, who received a fractured orbital bone and numerous lacerations to his head, cries out in pain.
While Rivera was at the hospital, McKnight and Robinson submitted police paperwork and inaccurate statements to the Philadelphia Police Department by falsely accusing Rivera of assaulting Robinson and Resisting Arrest. Based on the false allegations, Rivera was arrested and charged with Aggravated Assault and related offenses. Eventually the charges against Rivera were withdrawn after the video evidence of the attack was reviewed by prosecutors.
Today, Officers McKnight and Robinson will be processed and arraigned. A copy of the Grand Jury presentment and photographs of Officers McKnight and Robinson and Rivera are attached.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into seven divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Pre-Trial, Investigations, Juvenile Law, and Special Operations. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually. The main office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is located in Center City Philadelphia at The Widener Building, Three South Penn Square. The Juvenile Court and Child Support Unit are located at 1501 Arch Street, and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit is located at 1425 Arch Street. Additionally, the Charging Unit is staffed around the clock in The Widener Building.

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Philadelphia Police Officer Charged With False Identification to Law Enforcement Authorities

February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015: Philadelphia- Today, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged 28-year-old Brandon Ruff, a Philadelphia Police Sergeant, with one count of False Identification to Law Enforcement Authorities, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4914.

The allegations are that on August 3, 2014, Sgt. Ruff, then assigned to the 16th District, arrived at the 35th District headquarters in civilian clothing carrying a bag containing three handguns that he asked to surrender.  When Sgt. Ruff responded to an officer’s inquiry that the guns were not his, police began to investigate in order to determine whether any of the guns were stolen or had been used in a crime.  Sgt. Ruff informed the officer that the guns came from a family member and he knew nothing else about them.

When a second police officer went to retrieve the guns, she asked Sgt. Ruff for his name and date of birth in order to record the interaction.  Sgt. Ruff responded with the alias “Ryan Jones” and a fabricated date of birth.

Sgt. Ruff began to get agitated and began to leave the building.  Once outside, other officers from the 35th District stopped him and observed a bulge in his waistband that a search revealed to be his privately-owned handgun.  Sgt. Ruff continued to refuse requests for identification and his permit to carry that handgun.

Once back inside the building, a police officer conducted a more thorough search and discovered Sgt. Ruff’s police identification.  All three guns came back to different owners, with one having been reported stolen out of South Philadelphia in 2010.

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Grand Jury Investigation into a Philadelphia Police Officer

January 27, 2015

January 22, 2015: Today, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams charged former Philadelphia Homicide Detective Ronald Dove with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Unsworn Falsification, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  His accomplice, Erica Sanchez has been charged with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  The arrests of Dove and Sanchez come after a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation.

 

At 2:01 PM on Sunday, September 8, 2013, Philadelphia police received a report of a body found at 3312 N. 5th St. in the city of Philadelphia. Within minutes, police reached the scene and found the body of Cesar Vera in an after-hours club lying in a pool of his own blood. Mr. Vera had a single stab wound to the chest – that had penetrated through his heart – killing him within minutes of the stabbing. The homicide Detectives who responded to the scene quickly identified the name of a suspect – Erica Sanchez.  Sanchez would remain the sole suspect in the homicide of Cesar Vera until her surrender to police on October 16, 2013. Despite extensive efforts, homicide Detectives were never able to find, question or detain Erica Sanchez before that date because one of their own was assisting her in avoiding responsibility for her conduct.

 

Unbeknownst to the Homicide Detectives – indeed, unbeknownst to the Philadelphia Police Department – one of their own members, Homicide Detective Ronald Dove, had been with Erica Sanchez after the death of Cesar Vera. Over the hours, days and weeks following the murder, while homicide Detectives searched for Erica Sanchez, Detective Dove knew exactly where she was and how to contact her. He actively shielded her, hid her and failed to disclose material evidence and facts to his fellow police officers.

The Grand Jury found that on the morning of the murder of Cesar Vera, Sanchez, still stained with the blood of Vera, called Detective Dove and sought his help.  Dove responded and went to pick her up.  Within a short time he began to call various national hotel chains, before the police department even knew a homicide had occurred.  When the body was discovered that afternoon, notice was sent out to all homicide detectives, including Dove.  Once the body was discovered, Dove quickly sought to contact Sanchez.  Soon after that contact, both Dove and Sanchez stopped use of her cell phones.  Dove spent that evening with Sanchez, and checked in with his supervisor, failing to mention that he was at that very moment with the prime murder suspect.

The next day, as corroborated by toll records and video, Dove drove Sanchez from Philadelphia to Rochester, New York, where he checked her into a Holiday Inn, for which he paid.  He bought her a new cell phone, a Tracfone, which is particularly difficult to trace.  He left her hidden in New York and came back to work in Philadelphia, where his own colleagues were still trying to locate the suspect.

Meanwhile, Dove had undertaken a campaign to actively mislead other law enforcement personnel and protect the suspect.  The night of the murder, Dove called a fellow detective to fish for information about the progress of the investigation.  In later conversations, he eventually revealed that he knew Sanchez and repeatedly insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also spoke with the lead detective assigned to the case.  He urged his colleague to conduct only “a light interview” of Sanchez, and again insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also reached out to the chief of the homicide unit in the District Attorney’s office.  As with the detectives, he told her that he knew someone who was involved in a homicide, but insisted that it must have been self-defense.

Each of these individuals made clear to Dove that, if he came to possess any information about the case, it was of course his duty to report it immediately.  Dove promised he would, but he was lying.  He never told any of them that he knew exactly where Sanchez was hiding out, and that he himself had set it up.

Two weeks after the murder, Dove returned to New York – not to bring the suspect in, but to take her on a little vacation.  They spent the weekend at Niagara Falls, touring the sites and taking pictures.  Dove then brought Sanchez back to Rochester, checked her into a different hotel, and returned to his job in the homicide unit as if nothing had happened.

Not until October 1, three weeks after the murder, did Dove finally give a statement to investigators, but it was full of inaccurate statements.  He said nothing about his contact with Sanchez immediately after the murder, he hid the fact that he had spirited her out of the jurisdiction, and he failed to mention that he had disposed of her car and phone.

Dove’s actions and inactions from the early morning hours of September 8th to the date of Sanchez’s arrest on October 16, 2013 for the murder of Cesar Vera, constituted a concerted effort to prevent, harm and damage law enforcement efforts to solve the murder.  Dove’s actions prevented the collection and preservation of important evidence (such as the clothes worn by Erica Sanchez on the day of the homicide, finger nail scrapings, DNA, hair samples, a timely forensic exam of her car, recovery of the murder weapon, etc.) that was available on the day of the homicide (September 8th).  In addition, his actions prevented police from obtaining physical custody of Erica Sanchez.

 

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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.


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