Nine former city workers who ransacked several homes got the bill for their crimes last week. The men, all former employees of the Community Life Improvement Program, must pay their victims more than $108,000.
Most of the defendants and their attorneys appeared before Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd on Friday to hear — and agree to — a list of what they owe. Some of their victims as well as defendants’ relatives were in Byrd’s courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert streets.
Some will pay more than others because some were involved in more crimes than others. After a grand jury had investigated, the nine were arrested in late 2009 on charges they had stolen money and personal property from five homes — in Somerton, Tacony, Torresdale, Frankford and Kensington — from mid-2006 through January 2008.
On Friday, Byrd signed an order requested by Assistant District Attorney Sharon Piper to tap into the defendants’ city pensions. If the city moves to seize the pensions of the former municipal employees, Byrd ordered that the money be used to make restitution to the five victims named in court Friday.
One of the defendants’ lawyers objected to Piper’s request because the city solicitor has to first move to seize the pensions and that has to be adjudicated elsewhere.
Byrd, however, said his order is valid if the city seizes the defendants’ pensions.
“We have advised the Inspector General’s office of the convictions,” Piper later stated in an e-mail to the Northeast Times. She said the district attorney’s office plays no role in deciding the fates of the defendants’ pensions.
Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, on Monday said the city’s Law Department is reviewing Judge Byrd’s order.
A few steps need to be taken for the city to get hold of the convicted men’s city pensions, said Francis Bielli, executive director of the Board of Pensions and Retirement.
If a city employee is convicted and sentenced, the inspector general notifies the pension board, Bielli said during a phone interview on Monday. The board then asks the Law Department to render a legal opinion, based on city code and state law, on whether the individual should lose his pension.
If the Law Department makes that recommendation, Bielli said, the board at its monthly meeting first votes on whether to suspend any pension payments being made. The board then votes on whether to disqualify the person from receiving a city pension.
Last, and perhaps most important to the CLIP defendants’ victims, is that the pension board votes to withhold any money the employee had contributed to his pension in order to satisfy any fines or court-ordered restitution.
The pension board never has voted against the Law Department’s recommendation on such a matter, Bielli said.
The board handles a handful of such cases per year, he said.
Five of the men had pleaded guilty and were sentenced last month as their trial was about to begin. Not one was given a maximum sentence longer than three years.
Last Friday, those five — Rycharde Sicinski, Henry Turrentine, Algie Cuffee Jr., Algie Cuffee Sr. and Jermaine Adderly — were taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies and taken to the city’s prisons on State Road for processing. They all will be permitted to serve their time in the city’s jails. They will be released to work but must return to jail after work and on weekends.
Four others had pleaded guilty earlier. Lamont Williams, Anthony Scarcia and William Roldan will be sentenced later this month. Wilfredo Cintron already is serving his sentence of one to three years in state prison. Piper said he had agreed when sentenced to any restitution amount that would be set.
The crooks stole money, tools, jewelry, appliances, furniture, guns and even clothing from houses they were sent to clean as employees of CLIP, a program that was created to address quality-of-life issues in the Northeast. Their victims lost even more when the city billed them for the work the nine were supposed to have done.
Piper stated in her e-mail that the restitution figures included amounts the city had billed the victims.
The men had pleaded guilty to theft, receiving stolen property, official oppression, perjury and criminal conspiracy. Adderly and Cuffee Jr. also pleaded guilty to weapons offenses. It was the stolen guns, which were traced back to homes visited by CLIP employees, that spurred a grand jury investigation and the charges against the men
Last Friday, the nine defendants agreed to pay equal shares of $25,314.72 in restitution to a victim who lived on the 1800 block of Greymont St. in Somerton.
Eight of them will pay equal shares of $25,500 to a victim who lived on the 9000 block of Convent Ave. Also, eight will pay equal shares of $27,500 each to two victims who lived on the 1300 block of Harrison Street in Frankford. Six defendants will share restitution of $2,270 to a victim who lived on the 7200 block of Marsden St. in Tacony.
A gun had been stolen from a victim who lived on the 2900 block of Boudinot St. in Kensington, but that was returned, so the victim at that address was not included in the restitution agreement, Piper said. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org