Northeast judge, ex-lawmaker among dozen charged in Traffic Court scandal

Mi­chael Lowry, For­tu­nato Perri Sr. and oth­ers are ac­cused of fix­ing tick­ets.

A former Phil­adelphia Traffic Court ad­min­is­trat­ive judge and state law­maker from Frank­ford, along with a sit­ting judge from May­fair, were among nine cur­rent or former judges and three oth­ers im­plic­ated by fed­er­al pro­sec­utors on Thursday as con­spir­at­ors in a per­vas­ive traffic tick­et-fix­ing scheme.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, former state Rep. and  re­tired Ad­min­is­trat­ive Judge For­tu­nato Perri Sr., his one­time per­son­al as­sist­ant Wil­li­am Hird and sit­ting Traffic Court Judge Mi­chael Lowry all “par­ti­cip­ated in a wide­spread cul­ture of giv­ing breaks on traffic cita­tions to friends, fam­ily, the polit­ic­ally con­nec­ted and busi­ness as­so­ci­ates.”

Lowry and Hird were named in a 78-count grand jury in­dict­ment, while Perri was charged sep­ar­ately by crim­in­al in­form­a­tion. Perri is men­tioned ex­tens­ively in the in­dict­ment, however, as a cent­ral fig­ure in the con­spir­acy.

“Phil­adelphia ward lead­ers, loc­al politi­cians and as­so­ci­ates of the Demo­crat­ic City Com­mit­tee reg­u­larly con­tac­ted de­fend­ants seek­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment on spe­cif­ic tick­ets,” the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice said in a prin­ted state­ment. “Ad­di­tion­ally, de­fend­ants were reg­u­larly con­tac­ted by fam­ily, friends and as­so­ci­ates seek­ing a ‘break’ on tick­ets. These de­fend­ants ac­cep­ted these re­quests and either gave the pref­er­en­tial treat­ment dir­ectly or com­mu­nic­ated the re­quest to an­oth­er judge to whom the case was as­signed.”

The in­dict­ment cites 50 tick­ets as hav­ing been “fixed” by the court between Ju­ly 2008 and Septem­ber 2011 in any of sev­er­al ways, in­clud­ing dis­missal, a “not guilty” ver­dict or a “guilty” ver­dict to less­er charges, res­ult­ing in less­er pun­ish­ment to the ac­cused traffic vi­ol­at­ors. Sim­il­ar tick­et fix­ing likely oc­curred long be­fore the peri­od ob­served by the grand jury, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment.

“For years, even bey­ond the dates of the con­spir­acy charged, there ex­is­ted a cul­ture of ‘tick­et-fix­ing’ at Traffic Court. Both judges and high-level ad­min­is­trat­ors at Traffic Court per­petu­ated and furthered this cul­ture of ‘tick­et-fix­ing’ through re­ceiv­ing, ar­ran­ging and hon­or­ing re­quests for ‘tick­et-fix­ing.’ The ‘tick­et-fix­ing’ was per­vas­ive and fre­quent,” the in­dict­ment stated.

Perri, 76, who served in the state House for two terms in the mid-1970s as a Re­pub­lic­an then later switched polit­ic­al parties, was ap­poin­ted as a Traffic Court judge in 1997 to fill a va­cancy on the bench. He served as the court’s ad­min­is­trat­ive judge from 2000 to ’02, re­tired in 2007 and be­came a “seni­or judge,” which en­abled him to ac­cept tem­por­ary as­sign­ments to preside over court cases when asked by the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the char­ging doc­u­ments, Perri al­legedly re­ceived free auto re­pairs and tow­ing ser­vices, along with gifts of un­spe­cified video re­cord­ings and sea­food in ex­change for the pref­er­en­tial treat­ment he ar­ranged for South Philly busi­ness­man and former po­lice of­ficer Henry P. Al­fano.

Mean­while, the char­ging doc­u­ments claim, Perri hired Hird, 68, to work for Traffic Court in 1997as the judge’s per­son­al as­sist­ant. In 2001, Hird was named the court’s dir­ect­or of re­cords, an ad­min­is­trat­ive po­s­i­tion, upon Perri’s re­com­mend­a­tion. Hird, who formerly op­er­ated a floor­ing busi­ness, earned as much as $80,000 a year in salary from the court and was in line for a pen­sion.

Lowry, 58, al­legedly par­ti­cip­ated in the tick­et-fix­ing by grant­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment in cases re­com­men­ded to him and by re­com­mend­ing cases to oth­er judges for pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. The in­dict­ment did not identi­fy any spe­cif­ic be­ne­fits that Lowry re­ceived, but stated that he and oth­er judges gran­ted pref­er­en­tial treat­ment “be­cause of polit­ic­al sup­port (past, present and fu­ture)” that they had re­ceived or might re­ceive; as well as busi­ness, so­cial or oth­er re­la­tion­ships with the ac­cused traffic vi­ol­at­ors.

The charges lis­ted in the in­dict­ment in­clude con­spir­acy, wire fraud, mail fraud, per­jury, false state­ments to the FBI and aid­ing and abet­ting.

Perri is charged in­de­pend­ently with con­spir­acy, mail fraud, wire fraud and aid­ing and abet­ting.

The oth­er ju­di­cial de­fend­ants in­clude sit­ting Traffic Court Judge Mi­chael Sul­li­van; former Traffic Court judges Robert Mul­grew, Wil­lie Sing­let­ary and Thomas­ine Tynes; Chester County Ma­gis­teri­al Dis­trict Judge Mark A. Bruno; Bucks County Seni­or Ma­gis­teri­al Dis­trict Judge H. War­ren Ho­ge­land; and Delaware County Seni­or Dis­trict Judge Ken­neth Miller. The sub­urb­an judges served vary­ing ten­ures on Traffic Court by ap­point­ment to fill va­can­cies on the bench.

Cen­ter City-based busi­ness­man Robert Moy was also charged in the con­spir­acy.

Au­thor­it­ies re­leased each of the de­fend­ants on $20,000 bail, but did not re­quire them to post any cash or as­sets.

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