Traffic Court indictment paints picture of cozy ties between judge, Southwest Philadelphia businessman

Then-Traffic Court Judge Fortunato "Fred" Perri Sr. (right) with Deputy Sheriff Paul Fallen in 2001.
Then-Traffic Court Judge Fortunato "Fred" Perri Sr. (right) with Deputy Sheriff Paul Fallen in 2001. (File photograph)
Posted: February 02, 2013

As a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge, Fortunato "Fred" Perri Sr. cultivated a public image as a tough guy. His nickname was "the Terminator" - a reflection of his supposed willingness to jail bad drivers.

But for a favored few, Perri couldn't have been friendlier.

"When you call, I move, brother, believe me," he allegedly assured a Southwest Philadelphia businessman said to be in league with him in the fixing of tickets.

"It will be all right. Don't worry about it," he reportedly told the same businessman on another occasion, assuring him that a ticket would be fixed as promised.

"You're in good hands with Allstate," he said after allegedly agreeing to fix a speeding ticket.

These damaging words and more - all apparently caught on tape through some form of FBI electronic surveillance - were quoted Thursday in the sweeping federal indictment of a phalanx of current and past Traffic Court judges.

In making their case public, federal prosecutors and the grand jury took particular pains to delineate what they described as the corrupt relationship between Perri, 76, and businessman Henry P. "Eddie" Alfano, 67.

Under their deal as outlined in court documents, Perri used his clout to fix tickets for drivers who had sought Alfano's help. In return, Alfano allegedly showered Perri with goodies - free repairs and maintenance on his Cadillac and Ford cars, delivery of unspecified pictures and videos, even gifts of shrimp and crab cakes. There was no allegation of a cash exchange.

Now their relationship may be under stress. The court documents released Thursday indicate that Perri, unlike Alfano, may have already agreed to plead guilty.

Alfano's defense lawyer, Jeffrey Miller, called the charges "a reach," "a low-level alleged criminal offense" overblown into a federal case.

Miller said that Alfano and Perri had a "personal relationship for many years" and that any gifts resulted from that friendship.

Perri's lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Perri's son, Fortunato Jr., is a well-known criminal defense attorney and law partner of McMonagle's.

Alfano is a former Philadelphia police officer who left the force in 1970. Miller said Alfano had retired on disability after being shot by robbers.

Now a resident of Clementon, Alfano operates a small business empire in Southwest Philadelphia on 61st Street near Lindbergh Boulevard.

His holdings include an auto salvage yard, a scrap operation, and an auto-towing business. He is the landlord of two strip clubs there - the Oasis Gentleman's Club and Christine's Cabaret. An adult video store, Venus Video, also operates on his property.

Over the years, Alfano has been a generous campaign donor, mainly to Democrats. The biggest single recipient of his support was former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, who received more than $70,000 from Alfano over the years until Fumo's career was cut short by a corruption investigation. Fumo is now in prison.

Another recipient of Alfano's largesse was Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery. Alfano gave his campaign $10,000 in 2007.

Perri Sr. is a wily politician who switched to the Democratic side in the 1990s after years in which he was a Republican state representative and ward leader in Frankford.

His switch helped sway a key state Senate contest. After the switch, Perri got a newly created job as a public affairs specialist for the Delaware River Port Authority police.

Perri joined the Traffic Court bench in 1997 and became its administrative judge three years later. While in that post, according to Thursday's Traffic Court indictment, Perri awarded Alfano a no-bid contract to tow and store vehicles identified by Philadelphia police.

The contract Perri gave Alfano was later stripped away by an action of Republicans in the state legislature.

Alfano rebounded. According to city records, he had another contract with the city from 2006 until 2011 that grossed his business more than $500,000.

Perri became a senior Traffic Court judge in 2007, handling cases as needed.

From 2008 through 2011, the documents filed Thursday contend, Perri conspired to fix tickets, often in concert with Alfano. He did deals for others too, getting a free patio and free or reduced-price landscaping in return, the government says.

On the bench, a newspaper profile once reported, he was a stern judge who dressed down a defendant for chewing gum in court.

But for Alfano, the indictment says, Perri was keenly solicitous.

At one point, the judge told Alfano he was worried all of the benefits were flowing only to him.

Their relationship, Perri said, had become "like a one-way street on my end. . . . I like a two-way street."

Then it was Alfano's turn to be stern.

"If I need something," he allegedly told the judge, "you're going to do it."


Contact Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmmcoy@phillynews.com.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Bob Warner, Dylan Purcell, and John P. Martin.

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