speeding ticket

FBI probed against Traffic Court judges

An ongoing traffic ticket scam among some judges in the Traffic Court of Philadelphia has come to light as nine present and past Philadelphia Traffic Court judges were charged today with a serious offense: conspiracy and fraud. This was the result of FBI’s fruitful probe for the last three-years into the ticket-fixing racket happening in the traffic court.

The indictment –

Although the 77-count indictment was returned on Tuesday but the seal was open only on Thursday. The result of the investigation revealed a network of people conspiring to commit a fraud. It showed that some judges with the help of their assistants were defacing documents, using coded words and were successfully able to establish “a well-understood conspiracy of silence” creating a two-system court. One was for the average violators who paid their penalties and the other for offenders with connections who were found not guilty or cases dismissed. This way, the coffers of the county and state were losing untold amount of dollars.

The indictment stated that even before the charged conspiracy, for years and even beyond; it was evident that the Traffic Court has adopted a culture of ticket fixing. And it seems that ticket fixing was becoming more prevalent and widespread.

Charges were filed against two of the court’s present judges: Michael Sullivan & Michael Lowery and seven other previous judges.

The four others indicted were – Judge Robert Mulgrew, Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., Judge Willie Singletary and Judge Thomasine Tynes. These four bearers of traffic justice were popularly elected by citizens of Philadelphia. The other three judges were formerly district judges of the near-by suburbs who were acting as substitute of the traffic courts at certain time. These are Mark A. Bruno, the Judge from Chester County; H. Warren Hogeland, Bucks County Judge and Judge of Delaware County Kenneth Miller.

Judge Hogeland, Judge Miller and Judge Perri had separate charges from the others who were already indicted by information. This process of charge is usually reserved for those who are willing to plead guilty.

Another court officer indicted was William Hird, Traffic Court administrator; and two local businessmen; namely, Henry P. Alfano and Robert Moy. Alfano owns a towing service business which was given by the Traffic Courts the work without any need for bidding.

All the defendants named in the indictment, except one, appeared before a magistrate judge. They were later released after paying a $20,000 bail.

One of the U.S. lawyers lauded in particular, Judge Sullivan, one of the present judges, who has a clean record, as he never demanded for or received anything of value, much less bribe or kickback in exchange for special favors. He performed for his responsibilities as expected from a duly elected traffic court judge. He handled each case before him justly and competently.

Another court lawyer was pleased that after the FBI exhaustive investigation, he saw in the indictment that not one of his clients paid a bit of dime for payola.

The pronouncement of the court that day certainly reduced the people serving in court and cast doubts regarding the justice system of Traffic Courts. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts promised to extend their support to keep the traffic court running.

Traffic violators who were in court that day were confused as they deferred to their lawyer as to how they will be spending a day in court.

A petition was filed by the state Judicial Conduct Board to suspend without pay all the ongoing practicing judges until a resolution will be approved of this federal case.

How others looked at the indictment –

For Kathleen D. Wilkinson, who is the chairwoman of 13,000 members of Philadelphia Bar Association, this day, a Thursday is a sad day for the justice system in Pennsylvania.

Wilkinson said the indictments cast doubts on the system of the court that was supposed to render fair justice and she called on the judges indicted to resign from their post. She praised the work of Judge Gary S. Glazer who is the Traffic Court Administrator who enacted measure to restore integrity and public confidence in the operations of the court. Wilkinson added that justice in all courts must be given fairly without favoritism.

For years, there has always been controversy in Traffic Courts which is considered by drivers as a great burden and looked upon by political observes as a fertile field for corruption. Traffic had been the object of probes twice in the past. But this new investigation revealed that for the last three years, public raids and FBI wiretaps have been ongoing.

In a report made last fall, Ronald D.Castille, SC Supreme Justice commissioned a consultant on how to eliminate the ongoing pervasive culture of corruption in traffic courts.

Another report submitted by William G. Chadwick, former city prosecutor, mentioned that eight of the past and present judges, with Hird as central coordinator, are involved in ticket-fixing.
The indictment presented further details wherein these Judges gave their associates, friends, and special ward leaders easy arranged to dismiss their cases or have fines reduced or dropped.

In return for the favor, it was alleged that judges allegedly got more than just good will. According to the indictment, one of them, Judge Perri was the recipient of favors as free services for his vehicles, towing, landscaping of his place, and even a supply of special and exquisite food from Alfano, who owns Century Motors, a towing service company.

The indictment recounted that on the 10th of February, Albano called on Perri representing the case of a truck driver who was facing a penalty of $442 in court after being issued a ticket along 1-Route for not cleaning the ice and snow from his tractor-trailer. The operator already received two calls and his license about to be revoked.

Perri assured his friend Alfano that he will look after the issue. After two months, the case was assigned to Sullivan. The driver has things going his way, he did not even come to the hearing and he was pronounced not guilty.

The lawyer of Judge Hind stated that his client-judge is a good taxpayer and a hard working American who does his work faithfully. Now he is being accused for a crime of only doing his duty in court.
The friendship of Alfano, who used to be a police officer, and Perri has long been established. The arrangement regarding pay-off tickets is maybe a part of their mutual scheme.

The offshoot of the probe was that Judge Hird and Judge Singletary were accused of lying to the FBI agents, while Judge Mulgrew, Judge Tynes and Judge Lowry committed perjury before the Grand Jury.
When the prosecutor asked Judge Lowery before the jury if he was giving out special favors, he denied and said that he is treating everyone fairly.

Last year, Judge Singletary resigned due to a porno-scandal after a court staff accused him to showing her a photo of his genitals on his mobile.

Judge Mulgrew was accused of a separate federal case of corruption where he defrauded a nonprofit neighborhood group.

Senator Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County who is concurrent Republican floor leader said that he will pass a legislation abolishing traffic courts. He continued that Traffic Court is not actually an institution so it has no reason to continue its existence. Pileggi announced to the reports that he will accelerate the urgency of enacting the reforms he proposed.

Discovering a fraud –

One motorist identified as Diandra Salvatore spent time in the Traffic Court of Philadelphia to face a penalty of $247 plus an additional five points on her driving record for driving 85 miles per hour along Route 1-95 which allows a speed of only 55 miles per hour.

She was elated in leaving the court after getting a reduced fine of $187 and no point deduction as her ticket was reduced to driving 5 mph over the limit.

Left behind in court was a fuming traffic police who wanted to add two points to her record and the Philly’s federal Traffic Court reeking with corruption.

Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., who is alleged as a ticket fixer, dealt with Salvatore as he promptly helped fixed the driver’s ticket.

Last Thursday, the helpful Judge Perri with eight others of present and past colleagues in Court was charged with conspiracy and fraud. Uncovering the fraud was the FBI who had been doing the investigation for the past three years. Contained in the report was 77-count federal indictment outlining how judges and their aides were using coded words to create two systems in court: (1) One system was for the average citizens who paid their fines, and (2) another system was for those who had their cases dismissed.

It started with a ticket citation P1K8JW566M1, issued last Aug. 26, 2010, to an indictment of a female motorist woman described only “D.S.” When the data based ticket was reviewed, the identity was conformed of one named Diandra Salvatore resident of Blackwood, Camden County. The agents were not successful in contacting the woman.

According to the indictment, on Nov. 23, D S’ father contacted Henry Alfano, a businessman, regarding the ticket. Her father, unidentified, was not included in federal documents as a go-between.

Alfano owns an auto salvage business and the proprietor of two strip clubs in the city. The same day, he contacted Judge Perri and told him to let go of the ticket. Alfaro always asked the ticket holder to attend the hearing to make it appear legal. The judge assured him that everything is fine.

Reports showed that Alfano and Perri are close friends. It was not stated how government agents were able to secure a verbatim conversation of the two. It appears that the FBI is using some form of electronic surveillance.

Next day, Alfano informed Perri that they will be present as the hearing was set for the 30th of November.

This time Perri assured his friend that the woman-driver was in good hands with All State.

On that same day, Perri confided to court administrator William Hird regarding the citation and about a woman coming down on the 39th hearing for it. He would give him all the details later.

Five days after their conference, Perri gave Hird the citation number. Hird observed that it was not a state police ticket and promised that it will be taken care of.

Next day during the hearing, Perri told Alfano over the phone that the ticket was fixed. Perri told him that these are important matters for him.

Later that day, Perri inquired from Hird how it goes but the latter said that he didn’t know as he had a busy time. But he was confident it was okay since the court was handled by Judge Michael Lowery.

The report and court records revealed that although Lowry found Salvatore guilty,; he gave her a much lower offense; consequently, decreasing the fine and lowering the cost of the court by $60.

On that same day, Hind informed Perri that the citation was reduced to five mph despite the objection of the Patrol Trooper who wanted to add two points in her record. Later, they learned that there was no point given.

The three conspirators, Judge Alfano, Judge Lowry and Judge Hird were filed charges for offenses with carrying possible penalties of more than 200 years incarceration. However, they entered pleas of not guilty and were released after payment of $20,000 bond. A court appearance has not been scheduled.

Defendants and charges –

Philadelphia‘s Traffic Court today is conducting the hearing of nine Judges who were charged involving Together with these judges were a former director of the Traffic Court and two local businessmen.

Nine of the defendants included two concurrent Traffic Court judges, three past Traffic Court judges, the previous records director of the court, a judge of Chester County who sometimes presided over cases at the Traffic Court and two businessmen.

There were three other defendants indicted; they were two judges from nearby counties who sometimes filled in for Traffic Court judges and one senior Traffic Court judge. Charges were filed for cooperating with prosecutors and they are expected to reach a plea deal.

Twelve defendants were presented –

Here is a list of the defendants, charges filed against them and how they were charged;

1. Michael J. Sullivan, present judge of Traffic Court – He was accused of a single conspiracy charge of conspiracy, 18 wire fraud charges and three mail fraud charges.

2. Michael Lowry, present judge of Traffic Court – He was accused of one case of conspiracy, nine cases of wire fraud and one case of perjury.

3. Robert Mulgrew, previous judge of Traffic Court – He was accused of one charge of conspiracy, four charges of wire fraud, two charges of mail fraud and one charge of perjury.

4. Willie Singletary, previous Traffic Court judge – He was indicted of one conspiracy charge, 17 wire fraud charges, six mail fraud charges and one false statement charges.

5. Thomasine Tynes, previous Traffic Court judge – He was indicted on a single charge of conspiracy, seven charges of wire fraud, three charges of mail fraud and two charges of perjury.

6. Mark A. Bruno, current magisterial district judge of Chester County – He was accused of one conspiracy charge, one accusation of wire fraud and one accusation of mail fraud.

7. Fortunato N. Perri Sr. current Traffic Court senior judge – He was charged by information with one conspiracy charge, two charges of wire fraud, one charge of mail fraud, aiding and abetting.

8. Kenneth Miller, current senior district judge of Delaware County – He was charged by information with one accusation of abetting, aiding and mail fraud.

9. H. Warren Hogeland, current senior magisterial district judge of Bucks County – He was charged by information with one conspiracy charge, one charge of abetting, aiding and mail fraud.

10. William Hird, former Traffic Court director of records – He was charged with one accusation of conspiracy, 11 wire fraud charges, three charges of mail fraud and three accusations of making false statements

11. Robert Moy, latest number one translation owner – He was charged with one conspiracy charge, 12 charges of wire fraud and seven charges of mail frauds.

12. Henry P. Alfano, latest proprietor of Century Motors – He was accused of a single charge of conspiracy, six charges of wire fraud and six charges of mail fraud.

The meaning of the pronounced indictments –

1. As an illegal act, aiding and abetting are actions of assisting a person to commit a crime or to act as an accomplice. It is a mutual act to commit a criminal act.

2. Conspiracy happens when two or more persons agree to commit a crime at any future time.

3. A false statement is defined as a factually incorrect statement, with or without the element of knowledge on the person saying the statement.

4. Mail fraud is committed when the U.S. post is used to further a criminal act. It must include the following elements – (1) the defendant is included in the scheme to commit the fraud; (2) the plan includes material misstatement or omissions; (3) the plan caused losing money, deprivation of property and trustworthy services; (4) the defendant used the US mail for dishonest purpose; and (5) the accused used the US post.

5. Perjury is the willful and purposeful giving of incomplete, false, or misleading, or testimony under oath.

6. Wire fraud is any malicious scheme to intentionally cause another of losing property or depriving honest services through the use of mail or wire communication.

Conclusion –

Therein, the saga of fraudulent people and wrong doings in the Traffic Courts of Philadelphia are evolving for the citizens of the United States and the world to witness. If idiom is true that crime does not pay, this case is the best proof to verify the statement.

If you have received a traffic ticket, please contact an experienced speeding ticket lawyers. Protect your right to drive legally.

Sources: Philly Com
(http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20130131_Traffic_Court_judges_begin_surrendering_to_FBI.html)
(http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20130131_From_Traffic_Court_indictment__The_fixing_of_a_ticket.html)
(http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/Defendants_and_charges_in_the_Traffic_Court_ticket-fixing_case.html)

Source: The Legal Dictionary
(http://dictionary.law.com/)

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