Jury selection begins in trial of ex-CLIP employees

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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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