Philadelphia Traffic Court Judges Indicted for Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 31, 2013|
PHILADELPHIA—An indictment and three separate informations, unsealed today, charge nine elected judges along with three other individuals in a fraud conspiracy that involved a frequent and pervasive “ticket-fixing” at the Philadelphia Traffic Court. The defendants participated in a widespread culture of giving breaks on traffic citations to friends, family, the politically connected, and business associates. The defendants include:
- Michael J. Sullivan (sitting judge, traffic court)
- Michael Lowry (sitting judge, traffic court)
- Robert Mulgrew (former judge, traffic court)
- Willie Singletary (former judge, traffic court)
- Thomasine Tynes (former judge, traffic court)
- Mark A. Bruno (Chester County Magisterial District)
- H. Warren Hogeland (Bucks County Senior Magisterial District Judge)
- Kenneth Miller (Delaware County Senior District Judge)
- Fortunato N. Perri, Sr. (senior judge, traffic court)
- William Hird (former Director of Records, traffic court)
- Henry P. Alfano (local businessman)
- Robert Moy (local businessman)
The 77-count indictment was announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Acting Special Agent in Charge John Brosnan.
According to the indictment, Philadelphia ward leaders, local politicians, and associates of the Democratic City Committee regularly contacted defendants seeking preferential treatment on specific tickets. Additionally, defendants were regularly contacted by family, friends, and associates seeking a “break” on tickets. These defendants accepted these requests and either gave the preferential treatment directly or communicated the request to another judge to whom the case was assigned.
Tickets were “fixed” by either being dismissed, finding the ticket holder “not guilty,” or finding the ticket holder guilty of a lesser offense. In many cases, the ticket holder did not even appear in traffic court, yet his/her ticket was “fixed.” As a result, these ticketholders paid lesser or no fines and costs and evaded the assessment of “points” on their driver’s records. This widespread “ticket-fixing” defrauded both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia of funds and allowed potentially unsafe drivers to remain on the roads.
The defendants allegedly used their personal assistants and courtroom staff to communicate requests to “fix tickets” to other judges. The indictment further alleges that the conspiracy also involved a cover-up that consisted of shredding paperwork, speaking in code, and trusting only certain individuals to carry out the fraud scheme.
Three judges—defendants Lowry, Mulgrew, and Tynes—are each charged with committing perjury before the federal grand jury. One judge—defendant Singletary—and defendant Hird are charged with lying to the FBI when they were approached and asked questions about ticket fixing at traffic court.
Defendant Henry P. Alfano regularly gave defendant Fortunato N. Perri, Sr. free auto repairs, free towing, free videos, and free seafood in exchange for fixing tickets. According to the indictment, Alfano would give Perri traffic citation numbers, the names of offenders, or the actual citations to arrange fixing the ticket. Perri conveyed the information to William Hird.
Hird, in turn, conveyed the request to the assigned judge. Court-authorized, intercepted telephone conversations reveal that Perri prioritized assisting Alfano and Alfano made sure to take care of Perri. Perri told Alfano, “When you call, I move, brother, believe me. I move everybody.” After multiple free repairs on his cars and family members’ cars, Perri allegedly told Alfano their relationship was “becoming like a one-way street. I like a two-way street.” To which Alfano responded, “If I need something, you’re going to do it.”
Defendant Hird, it is alleged, was extremely loyal to Perri given that Perri helped Hird move up the ladder to a high-level administrator at traffic court. Recorded conversations demonstrate that Hird acceded to Perri’s requests to fix certain tickets. Given Hird’s position at traffic court and access to the judges, Hird was allegedly able to facilitate requests for ticket fixing not only for Perri, but also for various Philadelphia ward leaders.
Defendant Michael J. Sullivan, in addition to requests from ward leaders, also assisted friends and customers of his bar, the Fireside Tavern. According to the indictment, Sullivan directed associates who wanted their tickets fixed to leave them at his tavern where they were placed in a box behind the bar. Defendant Sullivan would assure his associates that the ticket would be fixed. In one recorded call, Sullivan told a ticket holder, “I know you’re broke” and “It don’t matter which judge would be hearing the case, because you’re good,” meaning the fix was conveyed.
Defendant Willie Singletary and Thomasine Tynes allegedly“fixed tickets on behalf of defendant Robert Moy, who owned Number One Translations, a business located in Philadelphia. Moy, it is alleged, would guarantee paying customers favorable results on their traffic court citations based on his relationship with both Singletary and Tynes. According to the indictment, Moy even advertised in a local newspaper that he “tackles the traffic ticket and guarantees no points or fewer points.” Ticket holders took their citations to defendant Moy, paid Moy hundreds of dollars in cash, were instructed not to appear in traffic court, and ultimately were found not guilty by either Tynes or Singletary.
In addition to the conspiracy charging a longstanding and widespread practice of fixing tickets, the indictment specifically lists 50 separate citations as being fixed. These tickets involved driving at unsafe speeds, driving an unregistered vehicle, texting while driving, operating an ATV on the highway, running a red light, making a prohibited U-turn, careless driving, not using a child safety restraint, and towing a vehicle without a towing agreement, among others. Yet these ticket holders unjustly incurred no penalties for their vehicle code violations.
“Our judicial system requires that the finder of fact determine guilt or innocence impartially,” said Memeger. “Ignoring this basic rule of justice, the judges in this case allegedly routinely fixed traffic tickets by giving preferential treatment to people with whom they were politically and socially connected. In addition to depriving the city of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of funds rightfully owed by traffic violators, their allegedly corrupt conduct also undermined the confidence that law abiding citizens have in the Philadelphia Court System. 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.”
“The citizens of Philadelphia expect and deserve public officials who perform their duties free of deceit, favoritism, bias, self-enrichment, concealment, and conflict of interest,” said Brosnan. “Everyone is entitled to the same treatment in traffic court, regardless of their personal relationships, regardless of political considerations, and regardless of the personal preferences of court officials.”
The moneys that would have been received from adjudicated citations would have been equally divided between the city of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and used to fund, for example, the city of Philadelphia’s general fund; the Philadelphia Parking Authority; the First Judicial District’s procurement department; the funds lost to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would have paid for Emergency Medical Services training; MCARE, which helps compensate people injured by medical malpractice; and the Access to Justice Fund, which provides money for legal aid for low income people and victims of domestic violence.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Denise Wolf and Anthony Wzorek.