Judge, legislative aide arrested on federal fraud charges

Robert Mulgrew
Robert Mulgrew
Posted: September 14, 2012

A Philadelphia Traffic Court judge, his wife and a state legislative aide were arrested this morning on federal charges stemming from an alleged scheme that defrauded a state agency out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds.

Judge Robert Mulgrew, 55, and the aide, Lorraine DiSpaldo, 57, were charged in an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury with 30 counts of mail fraud directly related to the misuse of the grant money.

The pair, along with Mulgrew's 55-year-old wife, Elizabeth, also were charged with filing false tax returns.

In a statement, the First Judicial District said it would have no comment except to note that the charges are not related to an ongoing federal investigation of allegations of ticket-fixing at the Traffic Court. It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide Mulgrew's status as a judge.

United States Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement the primary counts against Mulgrew and Dispaldo involved a scheme to steal funds earmarked for nonprofit groups by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) between 1996 and 2008.

DiSpaldo is an aide to State Rep. William Keller, D-Phila., identified only as W.K. in the indictment. Mulgrew, who became a judge in January 2008, was an employee of the politically powerful International Brother of Electric Workers Local 98 during the alleged scheme.

The pair were officials of two nonprofits - the Friends of Dickinson Square and Community to Police Communications - that received grants totaling $847,000 from the DCED, Memeger said.

But instead of using the funds as spelled out in the grant applications, the pair allegedly spent the money for their personal uses or doled it out to family and friends through fake projects.

Mulgrew, his wife and DiSpaldo are charged with failing to report the allegedly ill-gotten gains on their income taxes.

FBI agents arrested the trio this morning and they were expected to be released on bail following a hearing before a federal magistrate.

If convicted of all charges, Robert Mulgrew and DiSpaldo face a possible maximum prison of more than 100 years, although that is not considered likely.

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