Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY ISSUES WARRANTS FOR THE ARREST OF THREE PHILADELPHIA ELECTION OFFICIALS FOR VOTER FRAUD

June 24, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 24, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announces the arrest of three elections officials, two from the 33rd Ward 5th Division and one from the 36th Ward 10th Division, and charged them with election fraud and related charges. The infractions were made respectively during the 2015 and 2014 Primary Elections.

“I continue to be outraged that our election officials, after they clearly know the rules, think that they can just walk into the voting booth and vote multiple times or vote as someone else,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “What these three have done is clearly a crime and will be prosecuted. I hope that their wrongdoing reminds everyone who is entrusted with putting on and protecting our elections that my Election Fraud Task Force is real and will continue to find and arrest people who break our election laws.”

On Election Day, May 19, 2015, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Election Fraud Task Force was called to the polling place for the 33rd Ward 5th Division (Castor Avenue and Cayuga Street) to investigate complaints of illegal election activity. When interviewed, witnesses said that they saw Robin Trainor, who was serving as the division’s Judge of Elections, go into the voting booth with her husband, William Trainor Sr. After a short time, the witnesses said that they saw Robin Trainor come out of the booth, talk to Laura Murtaugh who was the division’s Minority Elections Inspector and sign the Election District Register under the name William Trainor Jr. She then went and reset the voting machine and returned to the voting booth with her husband. After examining the Election District Register, William Trainor’s signature did not match the officially known registration signature, and when interviewed, Robin Trainor said that she went into the voting booth to tell her husband who to vote for and then signed the Election District Register as her son in order to cast a second vote.

Robin Trainor (date of birth Sept. 21, 1959) is charged with Forgery, Tampering with Public Records or Information, Conspiracy, Repeat Voting at Elections, Interference with Primaries and Elections, Fraud, Conspiracy, Fraud by Election Officers, Unlawful Assistance in Voting, and Failure to Perform Duty. Laura Murtaugh (date of birth Dec. 6, 1958) is charged with Interference with Primaries and Elections, Fraud, Conspiracy, Fraud by Election Officers, and Failure to Perform Duty.

On Election Day, May 20, 2014, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Election Fraud Task Force was called to the polling place for the 36th Ward 10th Division (1410 S. 20th St.) to investigate complaints of illegal election activity. When asked, Cheryl Ali admitted that she voted on behalf of her mother because she was ill. After examining the Election District Register, Ali’s mother’s signature did not match the officially known registration signature. Ali had previously voted for herself at the 36th Ward 40th Division. Ali served as the 36th Ward 8th Division’s Machine Inspector for the following general election despite not living in that division.

Cheryl Ali (date of birth: Dec. 22 1958) is charged with Forgery, Tampering with Public Records or Information, Repeat Voting at Elections, and Qualifications of Election Officers.

Last year, Williams created an Election Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute allegations of Election Day criminal activity. The task force continues to be part of the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit and is staffed by assistant district attorneys and detectives.

In May of 2015, the District Attorney issued arrest warrants for four election officials from Philadelphia’s 18th Ward, 1st Division. In addition to committing election fraud, three of the four arrested lived in a different division than the one they were working in, which is a violation of the Election Code. The infractions were made during the 2014 General Election.

Trainor, Murtaugh and Ali have all turned themselves in today.

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY NAMED 2015 DIVERSE ATTORNEY OF THE YEAR BY THE LEGAL INTELLIGENCER

June 19, 2015

Office employs more minority attorneys than any law firm in PA

PHILADELPHIA (June 19, 2015) – Last evening, The Legal Intelligencer named Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams as one of their 2015 Diverse Attorneys of the Year for being fair, steadfast and willing to prosecute difficult cases.

“The Legal Intelligencer’s Diverse Attorneys of the Year Awards and dinner are intended to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of Pennsylvania’s diverse legal community. The purpose is to identify these outstanding achievers and by bringing attention to these impressive individuals, help promote the larger goal of helping celebrate and promote the cause of greater diversity in the legal community,” stated Hank Grezlak, Editor in Chief of The Legal Intelligencer.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office employs more minority attorneys than any other law firm in Pennsylvania. During the ceremony, The Legal Intelligencer’s Magazine and Supplements Editor, Ben Seal noted the District Attorney’s work in prosecuting child abuse cases against the Catholic Church and elected official corruption cases among others.

“I work with 600 of the best and brightest, dedicated men and women of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, so in reality, this is really their award because they’re the diverse prosecutors who keep me energized and focused on making life better for Philadelphians no matter who they are or what they do for a living,” said District Attorney Williams. “Thank you Legal Intelligencer and congratulations to the entire 2015 class of diverse attorneys.”

The Legal Intelligencer’s editorial staff selected the award winners to shine a light on the outstanding work being done by minority attorneys across Pennsylvania. The list is announced every two years. This year’s list represents a cross-section of educators, public defenders, personal injury attorneys, law firm leaders, corporate stewards and prosecutors.

The Legal Intelligencer is America’s oldest daily law journal and a trusted source of Pennsylvania legal news, information and analysis. Their coverage also specializes in the courts, the legislature and case digests from appellate and federal courts. The 2015 Diverse Attorney of the Year award ceremony took place last evening in the Wannamaker Building’s Crystal Tea Room. For more information about the award and a full list of The Legal Intelligencer’s 2015 Diverse Attorneys of the Year, please visit: www.thelegalintelligencer.com.

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES STEPFATHER SENTENCED TO 25 – 50 YEARS INCARCERATION FOR RAPING CHILD

June 17, 2015

Commonwealth v. Miguel Laureano

PHILADELPHIA (June 17, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that the Hon. Gwendolyn N. Bright sentenced 52-year-old Miguel Laureano to 25 to 50 years of incarceration for repeatedly raping a child he and his wife had taken in as their own.

The victim was abandoned by her mother at age six and taken in by the defendant’s wife who had babysat her. Starting at the age of four, Laureano began digitally penetrating the child when his wife would babysit her. Once the child moved in permanently at age six, Laureano escalated to raping her several times a week over the next five years.

“This young woman is not only courageous but her story of incredible personal strength in triumphing over these horrible crimes and attending college is an inspiration. Judge Bright’s sentence ensures that this predator will never harm another child again,” said ADA Meghan Goddard who prosecuted the case.

Unable to keep in the trauma of the abuse, at age 16, the victim confided in a cousin who notified police. Laureano was convicted on March 17, 2015, by the Hon. Gwendolyn Bright after a waiver trial of Rape of a Child, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse of a Child, Aggravated Indecent Assault of a Child, Unlawful Contact with a Minor and related charges.

The victim, who now attends college, testified to the physical and emotional trauma she continues to endure and her long journey toward recovery. She further testified that she hopes to someday help end sexual violence.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Bright stated that the defendant’s seven years of sexually abusing the young victim amounted to “torture” and that the lengthy sentence was justified by defendant’s “lack of remorse and arrogance.”

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND ATF ANNOUNCE VERDICT IN WITNESS INTIMIDATION CASE

June 17, 2015

Shaheed Williams and Aki Jones to be sentenced on September 21, 2015 

PHILADELPHIA (June 17, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that the ongoing partnership his office has with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has yielded a guilty verdict in an important witness intimidation case. On June 15, 2015, Shaheed Williams and Aki Jones were convicted by a jury of Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, Witness Intimidation, Conspiracy and related charges.

“The ATF is one of our strongest investigative and prosecutorial partners and my team and I are thankful for their expertise and hard work and congratulate them on another successful prosecution,” said District Attorney Williams. “Unfortunately, today’s announcement is not all good news, because a witness who stood up and did the right thing was shot. I hope this verdict not only sends a clear message to those who think that it’s a good idea to intimidate a witness, but reminds them that they probably shouldn’t even think about doing it.”

The victim in this case was Michael Vessels. Vessels was targeted because he was a witness to an earlier incident where Aki Jones had discharged a gun. After Vessels testified at the case’s preliminary hearing, Jones initiated a campaign of witness intimidation and bribery from prison to convince Vessels not to testify. Two other co-defendants, Troy Cooper and Charles Alexander, have already pled guilty to their involvement in the intimidation scheme. On the day Jones’ gun case was listed for trial, Shaheed Williams waited for Vessels outside of his home, shot him five times and stood over him saying “You won’t talk no more.”

“The convictions of all four of the defendants is a testament to justice, to citizen courage, and to the intolerance of violent crime. These defendants have been held accountable for the heinous act of shooting someone who was brave enough to come forward to law enforcement, and identify them and their criminal actions.” said Kelly Brady, ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge. “I applaud the tremendous effort of the Assistant District Attorneys, special agents and detectives involved in this investigation and prosecution that led to a jury swiftly returning guilty verdicts. ATF will continue to work side-by-side with our partners from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department to arrest those ultra-violent individuals who threaten the security of our City.”

ATF Special Agent Charles Bowman and Detective James Kopaczewski, a member of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Major Crimes who is detailed to the ATF, saw that the facts of Jones’ earlier case involved a gun used in a crime of violence and began their own investigation developing it for federal prosecution. Eventually, the ATF, working with the US Attorney’s Office, secured an indictment of Aki Jones and we withdrew the duplicative state charges. In Federal court, Jones pled guilty to the original gun charges on Dec. 5, 2011, and was sentenced a few months later to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Because of their relationship with Vessels in the course of obtaining the indictment of Jones, the ATF was aware of the retaliatory shooting of Vessels and worked closely with the Philadelphia Police Department to solve the case. In order to do so, the ATF conducted numerous search warrants, located and interviewed witnesses, seized several cell phones and archived the letters that were used to eventually prove the conspiracy.

The District Attorney’s Office presented the collected evidence to the grand jury and charges arose from the secret proceeding, a process that was specifically chosen to protect the remaining witnesses who were involved in the case.

Shaheed Williams and Aki Jones will be sentenced by Hon. Barbara McDermott on September 21, 2015.

###

DISTRICT ATTORNEY WILLIAMS STANDS BY INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED INTO THE SHOOTING OF BRANDON TATE-BROWN

June 16, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 15, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement in response to calls to re-open the investigation that was conducted into the shooting death of Brandon Tate-Brown:

“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office conducted a thorough investigation into the shooting death of Brandon Tate-Brown and the evidence showed – evidence that was corroborated by physical evidence and officer and witness testimony alike – that Brandon Tate-Brown had a gun in the car with his DNA on it, tried to get it on more than one occasion and was shot because he put two Philadelphia Police Officers and everyone else who was at the scene that evening in danger.

“Like I have said before, my sympathies go out to the Tate-Brown family, but I stand by my decision to not file charges against the officers and have no plans to re-open the investigation because what happened was tragic, but not criminal.”

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND THE U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCE HEROIN BUST VALUED AT $3.3 MILLION DOLLARS

June 9, 2015

Joint operation leads to the biggest heroin bust in 20 years

PHILADELPHIA (June 10, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams and Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced the results of a joint task force that led to the arrest of three suspects and the confiscation of $3.3 million of heroin – the biggest heroin bust in 20 years. The operation focused on three locations: 1818 Bergen St., 1216 Levick St., and Roosevelt Blvd. and Stanwood St. that were used for drug distribution and money laundering.

“This is a major bust and it only happened because of the great working relationship that we have with the DEA,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I congratulate all of the officers and detectives who were involved, and hope that today’s announcement – and yes there are more to come – sends a clear message to the citizens of Philadelphia that we’re working to shut down drug houses like these in order to make our neighborhoods safer.”

Martin Paulino Gomez (date of birth: Nov. 11, 1974), Domingo Cedno Pimentel (date of birth: Aug. 30, 1988) and Ricardo Ortiz-Rolon, AKA Acquiles Perez-Gomera, (date of birth: April 29, 1979) have been charged with Knowing and Intentional Possession of Controlled Substances, Manufacturing and Delivering and Possessing with Intent to Deliver Controlled Substances, Conspiracy, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

“Heroin is the primary drug threat to our area and as such, a significant enforcement priority of the DEA Philadelphia Division,” said Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle. “Working with the District Attorney’s Office, officers and agents dismantled a significant drug trafficking organization and seized a substantial amount of heroin denying its distribution to our streets. The DEA will be unrelenting in our pursuit of those individuals pushing heroin into our communities.”

In March of 2015, officers and detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office of Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit (DDOU)/High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and agents from the DEA began to investigate an area drug ring for laundering drug money. The following month, countless surveillance hours led officers to believe that the property located at 1818 Bergen St. in Philadelphia was being used as a safe house/stash house to prepare and store drugs and money.

On April 28, 2015, officers and detectives assigned to DDOU and DEA agents stopped two defendants outside the Bergen St. property, one of which had just exited the house with a kilogram of heroin. Investigators then used a search warrant to search the Bergen St. property and found nine additional kilograms of heroin. A portion of heroin was cut into 18 racks, each containing 50 bundles, for a total of 11,700 individual packets of heroin with various stamps. The search also yielded drug paraphernalia in addition to a heat sealer, several grinders, large and small clear baggies, stamps and digital scales. The estimated street value of the seized heroin is approximately $3.3 million dollars. The DEA concluded the search by taking possession of all confiscated drugs and paraphernalia to be used as evidence.

###

PA REPRESENTATIVE MICHELLE BROWNLEE PLEADS GUILTY

June 8, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 8, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that Pennsylvania State Representative Michelle Brownlee has pled guilty to Conflict of Interest for accepting money in exchange for promised political actions. Brownlee was immediately sentenced to 18 months of probation and forced to resign from her position.

“What Pennsylvania State Representative Michelle Brownlee did was not just wrong for the people she was elected to serve and detrimental to democracy in our Commonwealth, but it darkens the stain of corruption on the City of Philadelphia,” said District Attorney Williams. “I applaud the dedication of the men and women of the Investigating Grand Jury and all of the members of my staff who worked on this case.”

The same special investigation has yielded guilty pleas from former Pennsylvania State Representative Harold James and current Pennsylvania State Representative Ronald Waters on similar charges. Thomasine Tynes, the former President Judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, has already pled guilty to Bribery, Conflict of Interest and Conspiracy charges. Two of the three pretrial motions filed by Representative Louise Williams Bishop were denied last week.  The third motion is being held under advisement. Vanessa Brown is scheduled for a status hearing on July 13.

Recorded evidence made by a confidential informant (CI) showed that Brownlee accepted $2,000 for promising to provide the CI with direct influence into proposed legislation.

This morning’s hearing, which took place in Dauphin County, was presided over by the Hon. Scott Evans of the Court of Common Pleas. Assistant District Attorneys Brad Bender and Mark Gilson prosecuted the elected officials who have been charged as a result of the special investigation and the grand jury’s recommendation of charges.

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY ISSUES STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO ACLU CIVIL FORFEITURE REPORT

June 3, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 3, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement in response to the ACLU’s report on the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Civil Forfeiture program:

“The ACLU has cynically and falsely claimed the mantle of ‘innocence’ for its attack on the public safety program known as drug forfeiture.

“Forfeiture is not a criminal process. It is a civil lawsuit, like any case in which someone is sued for causing damage to person or property. If the perpetrator loses the lawsuit, he is not ‘innocent’ any more than the reckless driver who crashes into your car. Remember, criminal charges are a separate matter, they might even be beaten in court. But if the perpetrator is brought into court in a civil case and he fails to convince the judge, agrees he was wrong or just doesn’t bother to show up he is liable and there will be a civil penalty. That is drug forfeiture.

“The district attorney’s office continues to improve and streamline its forfeiture program, especially when it comes to adding additional protections for property owners. But, unlike the ACLU, we are not willing to ignore the true innocent parties here – the underprivileged residents of drug-plagued neighborhoods. They deserve the equal protection of the law and they are entitled to expect the justice system to shut down drug houses and take guns and cash out of the hands of criminals.”

###

PA REPRESENTATIVES WATERS AND JAMES PLEAD GUILTY TO FELONY CONFLICT OF INTEREST CHARGES

June 1, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 1, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that Pennsylvania State Representative Ronald Waters and former Pennsylvania State Representative Harold James have pled guilty to felony Conflict of Interest charges for accepting money in exchange for promised political actions.

“Today’s admission of guilt by Representative Ronald Waters and former Representative Harold James was the product of hundreds of hours of hard work. It also marks a sad day for the City of Philadelphia,” said District Attorney Williams. “Representatives Waters and James, both of whom I know and call friend, have ended their distinguished careers by taking responsibility for their actions, and I appreciate that, because the evidence clearly shows that they broke the law.

“This office’s ongoing mission to find and prosecute political corruption is one I take seriously and one that I will continue to do for the people of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

This morning’s hearing, which took place in Dauphin County, was presided over by the Hon. Scott Evans of the Court of Common Pleas. Waters pled guilty to nine counts of Conflict of Interest and was sentenced to 23 months probation, ordered to pay $8,750 in restitution and $5,000 to cover the cost of his prosecution, and resign. James pled guilty to one count of Conflict of Interest, was sentenced to 12 months probation, and ordered to pay $750 in restitution and $2,000 to cover the cost of his prosecution.

Recorded evidence made by a confidential informant (CI) showed:

  • Waters accepting $8,750 for voting against specific legislation, setting up and attending meetings with an executive at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and contacting an elected official to help the CI’s friend get a job; and
  • James accepting $750 for his special election reelection campaign and offering to further sell his services to the CI.

Hearings for Representatives Louise Williams Bishop (June 5, 2015), Michelle Brownlee (June 8, 2015) and Vanessa Lowery Brown (July 13, 2015), the other elected officials who were similarly charged in the special investigation, are expected to take place in Dauphin County

Thomasine Tynes, the former President Judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, has already pled guilty to bribery, conflict of interest and conspiracy charges.

###

GRAND JURY APPROVES CHARGES AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEE FOR STEERING $900,000 IN CONTRACTS TO HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY

May 27, 2015

Philadelphia District Attorney makes arrest and is proceeding with prosecution

PHILADELPHIA (May 27, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that a grand jury has recommended charging Priscilla Wright with Conflict of Interest and Perjury for using her position at the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to steer a $900,000 contract to her friends and family.

In March of 2013, the SDP was in the process of closing 23 schools when it issued a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to find vendors to move school property to other locations across the district. Wright, who at the time was a Manager of Small Business Development, used her position to make sure a vendor and related subcontractors – all friends and family – were paid with the public’s funds.

“Priscilla Wright used her employment at the School District of Philadelphia to not only position herself as the ‘ringleader’, but she steered a lucrative contract to her friends and family and stayed involved with the contract to make sure that everyone she wanted got paid as schools closed across the city,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Ms. Wright and her family are a perfect example of why we need to never stop reviewing and overseeing how the public’s money is spent, because once we remove the checks and balances, the fox all too often raids the henhouse.”

Shortly before the bid deadline, Wright placed a call from her school district desk phone to Sam and Serena Murphy to encourage them to apply. Sam and Serena are a husband and wife team who own and operate Murphy’s Transporting Services, an entity that had previously done work for the SDP and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Once Wright convinced the Murphys to apply, she began “putting together a team” who would operate under the “Murphy’s Transporting Services” name and give Wright the ability to steer public funds to those of her choosing. Specifically, Kia Steave and Angel Hackney, who acted as agents for Wright; “anonymous” partners who were Wright’s own son (John Nelson Brown posing as Tatoe Construction) and Wright’s sister (Laverne Rodney posing as Boost Enterprises); and other family members who shared in the project’s proceeds. Those family members were Wright’s sister Veronica Wright, Wright’s daughter Brittany Davis and Wright’s nephew Gregory Wright.

Wright’s family members were placed in positions of profit and control. Some family members were inserted directly into a profit share agreement. And others were placed in administrative functions for profit. For example, she forced out the Murphy’s own accountant and replaced him with her sister Veronica Wright, concentrating the contract’s payroll and bookkeeping functions.

When Priscilla Wright came before the grand jury, she denied that she took any action during the project. Her testimony was contradicted by her actions, other witnesses and the emails she sent from her SDP email account. In a notable instance, Priscilla Wright claimed she never reviewed the documents that became the basis of the subcontract. She also claimed that she was not involved in the subcontract or any project management. Those claims, under oath, were found to be demonstrably false by the grand jury.

Priscilla Wright (date of birth: 12/3/64) turned herself in and was arrested today. She has resigned from her employment with the SDP.

###


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.