FBI search warrant reveals how it seeks to build corruption case involving Phila. Police, L&I

Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets, at 17th and Moyamensing, is part of an extortion investigation, say those familiar with the case.
Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets, at 17th and Moyamensing, is part of an extortion investigation, say those familiar with the case.
Posted: February 17, 2011

Federal authorities are hoping to use financial records and other documents seized last week to connect the dots in a multipronged corruption investigation into kickbacks and payoffs that touch both the Philadelphia Police Department and the Department of Licenses and Inspections, according to several individuals familiar with the case.

"It's like opening Pandora's box," said one individual who asked not to be identified and who said the FBI had questioned him about several individuals whose names have surfaced in the probe.

A search warrant issued last week indicates that the investigation is heading in several directions, and that some of the financial records taken "may be indicative of payments to public officials."

Automobile towing and salvage companies and two strip clubs were hit with the search warrants Feb. 8 as FBI agents fanned out in Southwest Philadelphia and South Jersey.

Documents and other items were taken from the auto-salvage businesses and from the Clementon home of Henry P. "Eddie" Alfano, who has been described by investigative sources as a former Philadelphia police officer and one of the primary targets of the probe.

City records indicate that a Henry P. Alfano retired from the department in September 1970.

Alfano, his businesses, and his political connections in Philadelphia and South Jersey are all part of the investigation, those sources said. One of his companies has had a towing contract with the city for five years and has been paid more than $500,000 for its services, according to the City Controller's Office.

Alfano did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Written in turgid legalese, the five-page search warrant asked for any documents that would demonstrate the "transfer of goods of supply of services to public officials and public employees."

Public officials of interest, according to the document, included Dominic Verdi, an L&I deputy commissioner who works out of Police Headquarters and is the liaison between L&I and the Police Department.

Verdi did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Whether Verdi has any connection to or interest in a South Philadelphia beer distributorship also listed on the warrant is one area that investigators are probing.

The distributorship - Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets - has been the focus of FBI scrutiny for several months, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Disbarred South Philadelphia lawyer Gregory Quigley is believed to have an interest in the business. His father is listed as Chappy's president on records filed with the state Liquor Control Board.

Quigley lost his license to practice law in 2009 after pleading guilty to a perjury charge tied to an investigation into an organized crime gambling ring in Delaware County.

Chappy's was searched by the FBI in the fall, according to Thomas Kenny, a lawyer representing Quigley. Kenny said he could not comment further because he did not know what the investigation was about.

The warrant issued last week on the two strip clubs asked for invoices, purchase orders, and other documents that show the purchase or delivery of beer from Chappy's.

Part of the investigation focuses on an alleged extortion racket in which bars and restaurants in the city were told to purchase beer from Chappy's in order to receive favorable treatment from L&I, according to several people familiar with the case.

The strip clubs targeted in the warrant were Christine's Cabaret at 6130 Passyunk Ave. and the Oasis Gentlemen's Club at 6800 Essington Ave.

Both clubs are run by Robert Laflar, who also operates Gianni's, an automobile-salvage shop adjacent to Oasis. Records related to Gianni's were also sought in the search warrant.

Laflar did not return phone calls seeking comment.

He and two employees of Oasis are facing third-degree-murder charges in the October 2009 beating of a patron at the club who died in the parking lot.

The search warrant also sought financial records and documents from Century Motors at 3101 S. 61st St. and Philadelphia Towing & Transport and Towing Unlimited, two companies operating at 3200 S. 61st St. Alfano owns those companies, according to sources and court documents.

Philadelphia Towing & Transport is in the final months of a five-year city contract. The contract, which expires March 21, has earned the company $544,207, according to First Deputy City Controller Harvey Rice.

Rice said no records indicated that any of the other companies named in the search warrant have contracts with the city.

Alfano also owns the properties where the two strip clubs are located, according to investigators, and is the landlord for those businesses.

Alfano's companies have been involved for years in the towing of abandoned and junked cars left on city streets.

The search warrant sought financial records and other documents that would show evidence of the "transfer and/or concealment of assets" and the "transfer, concealment and/or expenditure of money . . . which may be indicative of payments to public officials."

The warrant also asked for any contracts and agreements the various businesses had with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the Delaware River Port Authority, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, and Gloucester Township.

Among other things, the warrant sought records of any business dealings with Kevin Piccolo, a real estate agent in Gloucester Township.

Piccolo, according to his lawyer, is the chairman of the Democratic Party in that Camden County community.

Attorney Rocco Cipparone said he did not know enough about the investigation to comment on the case, but said, "I'm confident Kevin Piccolo is not involved in any criminal activity."

Two members of the Philadelphia Police Department are also mentioned as public officials in which investigators have an interest.

One, Christopher Bee, works with the police unit that arranges for the removal of abandoned cars from city streets. Bee's office computer was seized last week.

His lawyer, James Binns, said Bee had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury and was cooperating with investigators and would testify.

Binns said his client had done nothing wrong.

The search warrant sought records of any transfer or goods or services to Bee and to Det. John "Jack" Logan, who works with the department's auto squad.

Contacted Wednesday afternoon, Logan said he had "no idea" what the investigation was about or why his name would be on a search warrant.

"I don't know anything about that," said the 22-year Police Department veteran.


Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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