Feds indict 9 Traffic Court judges, others

Posted: February 01, 2013

PHILADELPHIA Traffic Court Administrative Judge Fortunato Perri Sr. used what he knew best - a traffic analogy - while engaged in what federal investigators described Thursday as a "widespread culture" of ticket-fixing.

Perri, speaking on the telephone in January 2010 - and unaware that the FBI was listening in - told a strip-club owner that he was concerned that their relationship was "becoming like a one-way street on my end . . . I like a two-way street."

The dead-end came Thursday, when Perri was indicted with eight other judges, a former Traffic Court official, the strip-club owner and another businessman.

The sweeping indictment detailed the relationship between Perri and Henry "Eddie" Alfano, who runs a tow-truck operation, a scrap-metal company and two strip clubs.

Perri fixed tickets for Alfano and gave him a no-bid towing contract for the court, the indictment said. In return, Alfano gave Perri free towing, repairs and detailing for four family cars. Alfano also gave him seafood and videos.

Two other businessmen gave Perri free landscaping and installed a patio at his home after they had tickets fixed, the indictment said.

The other judges fixed tickets for "Philadelphia ward leaders, local politicians and associates for the Democratic City Committee," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said Thursday.

"In many cases, the ticket-holder didn't even appear in court, yet their ticket was fixed," Memeger said, noting that the city and state lost ticket revenue while unsafe drivers remained on the street.

The judges and Traffic Court's former director of operations, Bill Hird engaged in a "coverup," Memeger said, "shredding paperwork, speaking in code and trusting only certain individuals with carrying out the scheme."

Traffic Court judges Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew and retired former President Judge Thomasine Tynes were charged with lying to a federal grand jury.

Hird and former Judge Willie Singletary were charged with lying to the FBI.

Former Traffic Court Administrative Judge Michael Sullivan, removed from his leadership post by the state Supreme Court in December 2011, also was charged.

Sullivan, who operated the Fireside Tavern, in South Philly, kept a box behind the bar to store traffic tickets brought in by customers.

Three district judges from surrounding counties, retired but serving as senior judges at Traffic Court, were charged: H. Warren Hogeland, of Bucks County; Kenneth Miller, of Delaware County; and Mark Bruno, of Chester County.

Robert Moy, owner of Number One Translations, was also charged. The indictment said Moy was so confident of his ability to win favors for Traffic Court clients that he guaranteed it in a newspaper advertisement.

Perri, Miller and Hogeland were charged in documents separate from the indictment, indicating that they waived their rights to have their cases presented to the grand jury, a sign that they will likely take plea deals.

The William J. Green Federal Building played host to many of the Traffic Court scandal stars Thursday afternoon, as they came before a magistrate judge to enter not-guilty pleas.

One by one, the defendants were told to surrender their passports (Singletary said he couldn't find his) and their firearms (Lowry said that he would transfer his gun to his brother) and that they'd be released on $20,000 bond.

Henry Hockeimer Jr., Sullivan's attorney, handed out statements to reporters outside the packed courtroom, while Sullivan stood quietly nearby.

"Judge Sullivan never asked for, nor did he receive, any bribe, kickback or anything of value in exchange for performing his duties as an elected Traffic Court judge," the statement read.

Alfano's attorney, Jeffrey Miller, noted that Alfano was a former Philadelphia police officer, once wounded while on duty.

Alfano and Perri were friends, Miller said, but they mostly just traded Italian cheese, wine and cigarettes.

The ticket-fixing favors that Alfano allegedly asked of Perri amounted to just "low-level alleged criminal offenses," Miller said. "It's a bit of a reach to turn it into federal crimes."

Singletary said only four words to reporters after he surrendered to authorities at the federal building: "My God is able."

William Brennan, Singletary's attorney, said the indictment "does not allege that my client took one thin dime."

"Apparently the allegations set forth the government's perception of a scheme that defrauds the state out of potential fines," Brennan said. "I'll read it again, but it seems to me it's like speculating on pork-belly futures."

Traffic Court, long a bastion of patronage jobs and political accommodations, has resisted reform efforts in its 75-year history.

Mulgrew was suspended as a judge in September, after being indicted by a federal grand jury in an unrelated case.

Singletary was forced to resign last March after a female Traffic Court employee accused him of showing her pictures of his erect penis on his cellphone.

The state Judicial Conduct Board filed petitions Thursday to suspend Sullivan, Lowry, Perri, Miller, Hogeland and Bruno without pay from Traffic Court.

Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer, appointed to reform Traffic Court in 2011 by the Supreme Court, said a "dedicated cadre" of senior judges will hear cases now that all but one of the court's judges have been accused of crimes.

"There's no interruption in the operation of the court," he said. "But it's being run honestly now."

Judge Christine Solomon, a ward leader for 20 years, is the newest member of the court. She started hearing cases last March and was not mentioned in Thursday's indictment.

" @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: phillyclout.com

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