Jury selection in the trial of five former city workers accused of ransacking homes began Tuesday. The trial itself was expected to begin late Wednesday or Thursday this week.
Attorneys told Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd they believe the trial will last three weeks.
Originally, there were nine defendants in the case, but four have pleaded guilty.
The nine, who were current or former employees of the city’s Community Life Improvement Program, were arrested in mid-December 2009 and charged with stealing cash, jewelry, furniture, weapons and other personal possessions from five homes, four of them in the Northeast, between mid-2006 and January 2008.
The men all had been sent to the homes to address quality-of-life issues, but instead stole from victims who were too helpless or too afraid to report them, said Lynne Abraham, then the city’s district attorney. She said the men turned clean-and-seal operations into “clean-and-steal” operations.
The remaining defendants are:
• Rycharde “Rick” Sicinski of the 9300 block of Germania St., an L&I employee who was head CLIP inspector.
• Henry Turrentine of the 800 block Brighton St., an L&I employee who served as CLIP crew chief.
• Algie Cuffee Sr. of the 100 block of E. Tulpehocken St., a retired CLIP subcrew chief.
• Algie Cuffee Jr. of Upper Darby, Cuffee Sr.’s son. Cuffee Jr. allegedly sold or gave away guns taken from homes CLIP crews cleaned. He supposedly also was on a CLIP crew.
• CLIP crew member Jermaine Adderly of the 1500 block of N. Wanamaker St.
A grand jury began looking into CLIP in 2008 after special agents from the Gun Violence Task Force tied guns that had been found to be illegally owned to one of the former CLIP workers and then to two of the homes visited by CLIP crews.
Abraham released the grand jury’s 60-page report of what she called a “theft fest” when she announced the arrests Dec. 16 2009. The grand jury charged that the men illegally entered five homes in the Northeast and Kensington, terrorized residents and ransacked the properties, Abraham said. They removed everything from the premises. They even took about $25,000 from one home and later returned the boxes in which the money had been stored, but not the money.
Some of the stolen guns, clothing and tools were on display during the late 2009 news conference at which Abraham announced the charges. One gun was later linked to a murder.
According to the grand jury presentment, the men abused their positions with CLIP to “enter houses without permission or legal authority, sometimes ordering elderly residents to leave their homes. The crew systematically took items of value from the homes. They didn’t simply pocket stray knickknacks. They drove trucks to the houses and took everything: televisions, dining room furniture sets, money from safes, silver flatware settings, clothing, family heirlooms and several large gun collections,” the jurors wrote. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org