Two former Philadelphia police officers were convicted of theft last week for stealing utility services at several properties they jointly owned.
Veteran Lt. Aisha Perry, 54, of Winchester Park and her accomplice, longtime Officer George Suarez, 55, tampered with utility meters so that they would not register the gas, water and electricity used at several properties. The locations included Perry’s home on the 2800 block of Winchester Ave., a substance abuse rehab facility on the 1900 block of W. Girard Ave., another property near Devereaux Avenue and Bingham Street and one near 22nd and Tioga streets.
After a four-day trial, a jury deliberated for about 13 hours before returning guilty verdicts against Perry on six of nine counts, as well as guilty verdicts against Suarez on nine of 16 counts.
Following the reading of the verdicts, Perry reportedly interrupted the proceedings by insisting her innocence and claiming that she was being retaliated against as a one-time “whistleblower” in the police department. Indeed, a federal jury in 1999 awarded Perry $42,000 in damages after she successfully sued the police department claiming that her white superiors retaliated against her after she had reported wrongdoing by white officers. Perry is African-American.
But some 12 years later, the department launched an internal investigation of the pair regarding the allegations of utility theft. Perry and Suarez were reassigned to desk jobs during the year-long probe, which came to light publicly after Perry’s family friend drowned under suspicious circumstances in the algae-filled backyard pool at her home. The city’s medical examiner later ruled that Mark Cummins, 45, died of an accidental drowning. Perry was not implicated with wrongdoing.
Authorities charged Perry and Suarez with the utility thefts in September 2012, alleging that the thefts amounted to thousands of dollars. The police department suspended both cops pending their dismissal after 30 days. Perry, a 31-year veteran previously assigned to the 39th district, retired before her dismissal. Suarez, a 26-year veteran previously assigned to the 14th district, did not retire.
During the trial, attorneys for both defendants reportedly argued that nobody actually saw either defendant tampering with the meters. They described the evidence as circumstantial. Assistant District Attorney Terri Domsky reportedly countered that Perry and Suarez were the only ones to benefit from the similar tampering at their properties.
Common Pleas Court Judge Earl W. Trent will sentence the pair on June 11. He reportedly indicated in post-sentencing comments that he believed both defendants had already “suffered significantly” for their crimes. ••