Northeast Times

Ex-CLIP workers to do prison time

Laborers with the city cleanup pro­gram used it to evict homeown­ers un­der bogus pre­tenses and steal their pos­ses­sions. Nine of them ad­mit­ted their roles.

When all is fi­nally said, all that’s left to be done is time.

Five ex-city work­ers last week ne­go­ti­ated pleas with the city dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice rather than face tri­als for ran­sack­ing homes and ter­ror­iz­ing res­id­ents more than three years ago. Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd im­me­di­ately sen­tenced them to jail terms ran­ging from 11 months to three years.

Former Com­munity Life Im­prove­ment Pro­gram work­ers Al­gie Cuffee Sr., Al­gie Cuffee Jr., Jer­maine Ad­derly, Henry Tur­rentine and Rycharde Si­c­in­ski pleaded guilty to theft, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, of­fi­cial op­pres­sion, per­jury and crim­in­al con­spir­acy. Ad­derly and Cuffee Jr. also pleaded guilty to weapons of­fenses.

The five, along with three  co-de­fend­ants — La­mont Wil­li­ams, An­thony Scarcia and Wil­li­am Roldan — will be back in Byrd’s court on Oct. 14 to work out how they will pay about $100,000 in resti­tu­tion to their vic­tims and to sur­render for in­car­cer­a­tion.

Wil­fredo Cin­tron, one of the nine men charged in late 2009, pleaded guilty earli­er and already is serving his sen­tence of one to three years in state pris­on. Roldan, of the 7000 block of Rising Sun Ave.; Scarcia, of the 4200 block of Knorr St.; and Wil­li­ams, of the 800 block of E. Wood­lawn St., have not been sen­tenced yet.

Had the de­fend­ants pleaded guilty when ar­res­ted in mid-Decem­ber 2009, they would have com­pleted their min­im­um sen­tences months ago.

At the time, Lynne Ab­ra­ham, who was con­clud­ing her ca­reer as dis­trict at­tor­ney, an­nounced that a grand jury had in­vest­ig­ated CLIP and that the nine men were ar­res­ted for al­legedly ran­sack­ing five homes — in Somer­ton, Ta­cony, Tor­res­dale, Frank­ford and Kens­ing­ton — from mid-2006 through Janu­ary 2008.

As part of the city pro­gram, crews are dis­patched to look in­to com­plaints of prop­er­ties that are over­grown  or un­sightly, and the city bills the homeown­er for the cleanup work. 

A FEST­IV­AL FOR THIEVES

Ab­ra­ham char­ac­ter­ized the vic­tims of this “theft fest” as “un­soph­ist­ic­ated, un­aware, eld­erly and power­less.”

She said CLIP work­ers in­ap­pro­pri­ately forced res­id­ents from their homes un­der the pre­tense of hav­ing city or­ders for clean-and-seal op­er­a­tions. That work soon be­came “clean-and-steal op­er­a­tions,” the former DA said.

CLIP crew mem­bers were among those summoned to testi­fy be­fore the grand jury.

“It was clear from the testi­mony of the crew mem­bers that steal­ing from houses was their routine prac­tice,” the grand jury wrote in a re­port re­leased Dec. 15, 2009. “They said Si­c­in­ski, as the in­spect­or at the sites, would go through the prop­er­ties first with an­oth­er su­per­visor, Henry Tur­rentine. The two su­per­visors would take a look around and then tell the work­ers what was in the houses and where to find it.”

That’s when the thefts began.

“Both su­per­visors al­lowed the crew to steal guns, valu­ables, fur­niture, elec­tron­ics and tools from the houses where they worked, even though L&I policy (De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions) strictly for­bade work­ers from tak­ing any­thing from the prop­er­ties ex­cept trash that was sup­posed to be dis­posed of in a trash truck,” the grand jury wrote.

Ac­cord­ing to the grand jury, the su­per­visors fur­ther aided the thefts by fail­ing to fol­low pro­ced­ures such as pho­to­graph­ing the prop­er­ties and pos­ses­sions be­fore and after the cleanups, or by con­tact­ing po­lice when they found weapons.

The grand jury was just as crit­ic­al of city ad­min­is­trat­ors.

“No one at L&I or the (city) man­aging dir­ect­or’s of­fice seemed to care if the crew ever remedied the al­leged code vi­ol­a­tions that served as a pre­tense for the break-ins and thefts,” the grand jury wrote.

SCENES OF THE CRIMES

One of the more blatant of the cases took place at a home on the 1800 block of Grey­mont St. in Somer­ton. On Jan. 16, 2007, the own­er was away from her home when she got a call from a neigh­bor who told her city of­fi­cials were there with a cara­van of trucks.

The wo­man test­i­fied that her prop­erty was re­moved from her home that day by CLIP em­ploy­ees. She ar­rived and spoke to Si­c­in­ski, who would not let her enter her house, she test­i­fied. She paid to stay at a motel un­til she was per­mit­ted to re­turn.

Al­though her home had debris in it, the wo­man said, she denied hav­ing re­ceived any no­tice that a CLIP crew would be com­ing to her prop­erty.

Let­ters that ex­plain spe­cif­ic vi­ol­a­tions are sup­posed to be sent to prop­erty own­ers, who are giv­en 10 days to rem­edy the situ­ation be­fore the city takes ac­tion.

The wo­man’s miss­ing items in­cluded a safe, ap­pli­ances, ster­ling sil­ver, fur­niture, coins, her late hus­band’s tools and many weapons from his gun col­lec­tion. 

The wo­man later re­ceived a city bill of $17,854.72 for CLIP’s ser­vices. Some of the wo­man’s re­l­at­ives, however, told the grand jury that debris re­mained in the house even though much of the wo­man’s prop­erty had been re­moved.

A neigh­bor told the grand jury that he saw work­ers carry bags from the home. However, rather than toss them in­to trash trucks, the work­ers put the bags in city trucks and per­son­al vehicles.

Ac­cord­ing to the grand jury re­port, Si­c­in­ski test­i­fied that he told the wo­man on Jan. 6 or 7, 2007 that she would have to leave her prop­erty based on his in­spec­tion of look­ing in the win­dows and see­ing debris. CLIP work­ers nev­er got the wo­man’s per­mis­sion to enter; in fact, they found the doors locked when they showed up on Jan. 16, 2007, and Si­c­in­ski later told the grand jury that he summoned a lock­smith to get in­to the house. 

Si­c­in­ski test­i­fied “un­truth­fully” that he had a court or­der to enter the home, the grand jury re­por­ted.

CLIP STAYED PUT

The grand jury stated that a CLIP crew re­mained at the wo­man’s home un­til Jan. 25, 2007. 

In his testi­mony, co-de­fend­ant Scarcia said Cuffee and Ad­derly came to his house in Janu­ary 2007 and gave him a 9mm hand­gun that po­lice found in his house in 2008. Au­thor­it­ies con­firmed the gun had been re­gistered to the Somer­ton wo­man’s late hus­band.

The grand jury re­port is filled with testi­mony of the men im­plic­at­ing one an­oth­er in thefts from the home.

The case against the CLIP work­ers be­came clear­er on Aug. 13, 2009, when Manuel San­ti­ago, a gun task force spe­cial agent with the Pennsylvania At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Of­fice, ob­tained a war­rant to search Cuffee Sr.’s home and found nu­mer­ous sweat­ers, tools and sil­ver­ware that had been stolen from the Somer­ton wo­man’s home.

Sim­il­ar ac­counts of thefts — in some cases in­clud­ing stolen weapons — stemmed from vis­its to four oth­er homes by CLIP crews.

One of the most ap­palling ac­cus­a­tions against the men was that they broke in­to a home on the 9000 block of Con­vent Ave. and forced an eld­erly couple and their dis­abled daugh­ter to leave. When the fam­ily mem­bers re­turned, they found about $25,000 miss­ing along with sev­er­al bottles of li­quor, two tele­vi­sions and all their fur­niture.

FA­CING REAL­ITY

Be­fore Sept. 12, former CLIP crew mem­bers Cin­tron, Scarcia, Wil­li­ams and Roldan already had ne­go­ti­ated guilty pleas with the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice. Cuffee Sr. had pleaded be­fore po­ten­tial jur­ors were ques­tioned on Tues­day morn­ing, Sept. 13.

Four de­fend­ants held out un­til a jury was im­paneled and testi­mony was about to be­gin last Thursday morn­ing. Two more de­fend­ants caved at that point, and the re­main­ing two soon de­cided to plead guilty as well.

Why, after so much time had passed since their ar­rests, did the last four de­fend­ants just fold? Some­times, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Miri­am En­riquez, the real­ity of their situ­ations doesn’t dawn on de­fend­ants un­til they see jur­ors sit­ting in the courtroom.  

Si­c­in­ski, 57, a De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions em­ploy­ee who was head CLIP in­spect­or, got the longest sen­tence last Thursday: 18 months to three years in pris­on and five years’ pro­ba­tion. However, Si­c­in­ski, a former 28-year city em­ploy­ee who lives on the 9300 block of Ger­mania St., can serve his time in Phil­adelphia’s jails and is eli­gible for work re­lease to make pay­ment to his vic­tims.

Tur­rentine, 54, a re­tired CLIP sub­crew chief, and Ad­derly, 36, a former CLIP crew mem­ber, were sen­tenced to 11 to 23 months in city jail and five years’ pro­ba­tion. They also are eli­gible for work re­lease.

Ad­derly also had pleaded guilty to il­leg­al-weapons trans­fers. The judge said he would abide by the guilty plea ar­ranged by Ad­derly’s at­tor­ney, but only with re­ser­va­tions be­cause of the weapons of­fenses.

He said the same to Cuffee Jr., 25, who was sen­tenced to one to two years in the city’s jails, also with work-re­lease eli­gib­il­ity and five years’ pro­ba­tion.

“I re­luct­antly agreed to ac­cept your guilty plea,” Judge Byrd said.  

IT STAR­TED WITH A GUN

The thefts — and the CLIP crews’ in­volve­ment — star­ted to come in­to fo­cus when agents of the city’s Gun Vi­ol­ence Task Force traced some stolen weapons to Cuffee Jr., who they al­leged had traded guns for marijuana.

In 2008, the agents in­ter­viewed a man ac­cused of il­leg­al pos­ses­sion of a hand­gun. The gun had been traced to a de­ceased North­east man. That weapon led to an­oth­er, and it was learned that they had been pur­chased from a ju­ven­ile who had an ar­rest re­cord in­volving a stolen gun.

With the ju­ven­ile at the time, but not ar­res­ted, was Al­gie Cuffee Jr., then an em­ploy­ee of the May­or’s Of­fice of Com­munity Ser­vice. The ju­ven­ile told in­vest­ig­at­ors he got the guns from Cuffee Jr., whose fath­er, Al­gie Cuffee Sr., agents then learned, worked for CLIP. The weapons, it was found, came from homes vis­ited by CLIP crews.

Fur­ther leg­work by the task-force agents took them to guns that they traced to an­oth­er North­east man and led to a grand jury probe, its pre­sent­ment on Dec. 15, 2009, and the ar­rests the fol­low­ing day.

Al­most 30 guns were re­por­ted stolen dur­ing the CLIP spree. One was used in an un­re­lated murder. Only about a dozen have been found. ••

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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