Nine current and former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges were indicted for fraud, conspiracy and other charges on Thursday in what federal prosecutors called a culture of ticket fixing.
"Those who seek to game the system by refusing to follow the rules need to be held accountable by the rule of law they swore to uphold," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement.
The 77-count indictment said "the ticket fixing was pervasive and frequent," continued from July 2008 until September 2011 and cost the city an untold amount.
"For years, even beyond the dates of the conspiracy charged, there existed a culture of ticket fixing at Traffic Court," it said.
The indictment said that local politicians, including ward leaders, politically connected individuals, and those with influential positions in business, labor, industry or society, asked Traffic Court judges or administrators for preferential treatment for constituents, relatives, friends, and associates who had been issued citations.
One business owner, Henry Alfano, 68, described in the indictment as the owner of an automotive business and the landlord for two gentlemen's clubs, is accused of fixing tickets for his friends. In exchange, he paid a judge with free car repairs, car maintenance, car towing, videos and seafood.
Another businessman, Robert Moy, 56, owner of a translation service, sometimes guaranteed his customers favorable results on their traffic tickets, and did so by working through a traffic court judge, the indictment said.
William Brennan, a lawyer who represents former judge Willie Singletary, told Reuters on Thursday that he will enter a plea of not guilty for his client.
"I'm pleased after reviewing this lengthy document, this indictment, that the government does not allege that my client took one thin dime," Brennan said.
Charges and penalties
All defendants are charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Some also face allegations of perjury and making false statements to the FBI.
– Administrative Judge of Traffic Court Michael Sullivan faces up to 440 years in prison and a $5.5 million fine.
– Traffic Court judge Michael Lowry faces a maximum sentence of 205 years in prison and a $2.75 million fine.
– Former Traffic Court judge Robert Mulgrew faces up to 145 years in jail and a $2 million fine.
– Former Traffic Court judge Willie Singletary faces a maximum sentence of 490 years in jail and a $6.5 million fine.
– Former Traffic Court judge Thomasine Tynes could receive up to 230 years in prison and a $3.25 million fine.
– Chester County magisterial district judge Mark Bruno faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
– Former Traffic Court director of records William Hird could receive up to 315 years in jail and a $4.5 million fine.
Other defendants include business owners Moy and Alfano, senior Traffic Court judge Fortunato N. Perri Sr., Bucks County senior magisterial district judge H. Warren Hogeland and Delaware county senior district judge Kenneth Miller.
– METRO / AW
Political watchdog Committee of Seventy on Thursday suggested several steps to start rebuilding the public's trust in the city Traffic Court.
CEO Zack Stalberg pointed out that the primary election for three open Traffic Court seats is less than four months away and suggested concerned voters let their ballots do the talking – or that Gov. Tom Corbett step in and appoint three judges who have demonstrated transparency and integrity.
Seventy also suggested that the First Judicial District mandate ethics training for Traffic Court employees, the Philadelphia Bar Association should evaluate and publicly rate all 2013 Traffic Court Candidates and the city Democratic and Republican committees endorse candidates based on those ratings.
Stalberg said that in the long term, Traffic Court needs to be either dissolved or completely overhaul the Philadelphia Traffic Court.
“Today’s indictments are not isolated episodes that can be fixed by getting rid of several bad actors," he said. "There has been one scandal after another in Traffic Court. This pattern must end."
– METRO / AW