Two Judges Indicted in Roofers Probe
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Two Philadelphia judges and 17 others associated with two Roofers Union locals were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of operating an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering including extortion, embezzlement and bribery.
Charged in the 61-count indictment were Common Pleas Judge Esther Sylvester, a former assistant district attorney, and Municipal Court Judge Mario Driggs, each accused of one count of extortion by allegedly accepting $300 each from the Roofers Union before last Christmas.
The payments to the judges, according to the indictment released by U.S. Attorney Edward Dennis Jr., came from Stephen Traitz Jr. of Trooper, Pa., who was business manager for Roofers Locals 30 and 30B. Traitz also was among those indicted.
The indictment alleges that for at least three years, Roofers Union officials received kickbacks representing 10 percent of the fees paid to their law firm to handle pre-paid legal services.
″The indictment further alleges the kickback money was combined with union funds intended for expenses of business agents and was used as the source of cash given to approximately 50 federal, state and local public officials in southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey,″ Dennis said.
″The use of the union expense money for this purpose is charged as an embezzlement of union funds,″ he said.
″The intended recipients of the money included judges, district justices, court officers, a New Jersey county sheriff, police officers in Philadelphia and a suburban county and employees of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.″
The indictment alleges that the money was intended to influence public officials to act favorably in matters concerning roofers or persons considered to be associated or affiliated with the Roofers Union.