Written with Sophia Pearson
Got a traffic ticket in Philadelphia?
It can disappear– as long as one knows the right code and the right people.
And it doesn’t hurt to give a judge some shrimp.
The U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia today charged two sitting judges and four former judges with fraud and conspiracy for their roles in a widespread ticket-fixing scheme that gave breaks to relatives, friends and the politically connected. The judges, including retired senior judge Fortunato Perri Sr., routinely cut “breaks” on tickets for Philadelphia ward leaders, local politicians and associates of the Democratic City Committee, according to the 77-count indictment unsealed today.
The judges and their courtroom staff spoke in code when fixing tickets, and in many cases the ticket holder wasn’t even required to appear in traffic court, according to the indictment. One judge allegedly directed friends and family to leave their tickets in an inbox in his bar.
The judges allegedly shredded paperwork to cover up the conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said in a statement.
A businessman charged, Henry P. Alfano, is owner of an automobile salvage company and two strip clubs in the city. He provided free car repairs and maintenance, free videos and in one case “dozens of shrimp and crab cakes” to Perri.
Perri, who gave Alfano’s business a no-bid towing contract for Philly’s law enforcement vehicles in 2001, allegedly complained the relationship was “becoming like a one way street.” Alfano allegedly replied: “If I need something, you’re going to do it.”
Another defendant, Robert Moy, allegedly would get preferential treatment for his customers from two judges who were also indicted, Thomasine Tynes and Willie Singletary. Moy even advertised in a local newspaper, China News Weekend, that his service would provide “no points or fewer points” on traffic tickets.
The fixed tickets involved offenses such as speeding, operating an ATV on a highway, driving an unregistered vehicle and running a red light.
The judges are expected to make their first court appearance in federal court in Philadelphia later today.