Henon consultant stole $50K to gamble

Posted: January 15, 2014

RICHARD NORTH, a former campaign consultant for Councilman Bobby Henon, will plead guilty today to stealing almost $50,000 from the campaign to feed a gambling addiction, according to Henon and a lawyer for North.

Early last year, North, 24, used the campaign's debit card to withdraw money more than 50 times from an ATM at SugarHouse Casino, according to police records. He also is accused of taking money from his roommates by stealing their checks, forging their signatures and making deposits through his cellphone.

North, who is now living with his parents in Atlanta and undergoing treatment for his gambling addiction, agreed to cooperate with the investigation, plead guilty to felony theft charges, publicly apologize to Henon and pay about $62,000 in restitution and fees, said his lawyer, Brian McMonagle.

In exchange, he is expected to receive a probation-only sentence that will keep him out of jail.

"I am gravely disappointed in Richie North's actions, and he betrayed my trust," Henon said in an interview. "I'm not seeking for jail time even though I was a victim here. . . . Him having a felony record for his actions and making full restitution - it's acceptable to me."

North had no prior criminal record or history of gambling, McMonagle said.

"He just got hooked here at the SugarHouse," McMonagle said. "He was going almost every day and he's been in therapy ever since. . . . He used his own money and then started using the money of the campaign."

Asked what type of games North was playing at SugarHouse, McMonagle said: "Too many. None successfully."

North, who in court today will read an apology letter to Henon before Common Pleas Judge Donna Woelpper, is "enormously remorseful" and "prayerful that one day Councilman Henon can forgive him," McMonagle said.

Henon said he became suspicious last spring, when North was unresponsive to some basic inquiries and there was a problem with a check from the campaign committee. The councilman said he then reviewed the committee's bank statements, discovered inconsistencies and notified the District Attorney's Office.

SugarHouse agreed to open its ATM records and surveillance video, which showed North making the withdrawals, according to court records.

During the investigation, North's roommates at an apartment near 16th and Christian streets told police they found several checks missing from the backs of their checkbooks that were written for $200 to $500 and deposited by North. A bank rejected similar deposit attempts for two $1,500 checks from one of the roommates' accounts.

McMonagle said that he could not yet disclose which charges North will plead guilty to but that the $62,000 restitution must be paid before sentencing to honor the probation agreement. North's father, who has the same name, is a notable attorney in Atlanta.

Most of North's work on the campaign occurred after the 2011 election, when many of Henon's top aides from the race had moved on. In early 2013, North was being paid $5,000 per month for a total of about $25,000 before Henon fired him.

"He's an articulate, well-educated, presentable, organized individual who was looking for an opportunity to have some employment while he was searching out careers," Henon said. "He handled all my campaign-finance issues from raising money, getting letters out, speaking with some of my contributors."

North's Facebook profile says he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and the Lovett School, a K-12 private school in Atlanta.

It's not the first time Henon has self-reported an issue with his campaign committee, "Bobby 11."

The Board of Ethics waived fines for Henon in a 2012 settlement after he came forward with information that his campaign mistakenly accepted contributions greater that the legal cap from two unions.

Before winning his seat in 2011, Henon was the political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, a politically powerful union.

He represents the river wards in the Lower Northeast, including Bridesburg, Port Richmond and Tacony.


Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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