Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leadoff Witness: Mama's Boy Rufus Was Ripping Off Mama

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

He was supposed to be the designated "responsible person" charged with taking care of the finances for his elderly mother's nursing home care.

But to hear nursing home administrator Kathleen Defriece tell it, Rufus Seth Williams, the district attorney of Philadelphia, was anything but responsible.

Instead, Defriece said, Williams was irresponsibly spending Mom's money. Income that was supposed to go toward paying the costs of Mom's nursing home care. But Williams wouldn't admit that it was him who was spending the money; instead, he blamed it on Mom, Defriece said. And whenever Defriece called Williams to confront him, he blew her off.

Defriece was the prosecution's leadoff witness today at the opening day of the history-making political corruption trial of Rufus Seth Williams, Philadelphia's sitting district attorney, who's refused to step down from office.

Of all the charges against Williams in the 29-count federal indictment, the lowest blows involve Williams allegedly stealing $23,000 originally intended for his own mother's nursing home care. And so when the bell rang today, that's the soft spot the prosecutors began pounding away at, those nasty allegations about ripping off Mom.

In February of 2012, Williams's 80 year-old mother Imelda checked into the St. Francis Country Home in Darby, where patient care runs about $10,000 a month.

A few months later, Defriece was called in to check out the financial application on behalf of Imelda Williams.

And what was missing, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer.

"Everything," Defriece said.

"We had nothing," she said. "I became somewhat alarmed."

The problem was that Seth Williams had signed his mother Imelda up for medical assistance. And he was required to turn over all of her income -- minus $45 a month -- to the nursing home to pay for Mom's care.

But when Defriece got a look at Mom's account, she saw a $500 withdraw here, and a $600 check written there.

And when she called Williams up at the office to talk about it, "He was not helpful," she said. "He acted like this was our problem."

The money in Mom's account, Defriece explained to Williams, "cannot be spent." Flowing into Mom's account was about $2,000 a month. The money included two pensions and Social Security benefits.

When Defriece asked Williams for more financial information, "He told me to come get it," she said. But the D.A. didn't realize "I don't have time to go over there," she said.

The St. Francis nursing home had 260 residents, Defriece said. In addition, she was responsible for five other nursing homes also owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

This was another problem. While Williams was dropping his mother off at an archdiocese nursing home, and dodging his financial responsibilities for putting her there, his office was crusading against that very same Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

That's right, from May 2, 2012 to June 23 of 2012, while the administrators of St. Francis were chasing Williams for not paying the bills for Mom's care at the archdiocese nursing home, Williams was trying Msgr. William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan for allegedly endangering the welfare of children.

When she was examining Mom's account, Defriece saw bills for Old Navy, Lord & Taylor, and Sallie Mae.

"I highly doubted his mother was shopping at Old Navy," Defriece told the jury. But that's what Williams told her, that his mother insisted on buying presents for his daughters, presents that came from Old Navy and Lord & Taylor.

When Defriece called Williams up, he was "very nonchalant" about the missing money from the account, she said.

"The charges are not acceptable," Defriece said she told Williams. He would "kind of schmooze up to me," she said. When he came to the phone, which wasn't often.

"I was spending so much time hunting him down," she said. "He really didn't give a darn."

While Defriece was offering up her not-very-flattering assessment of Seth, his lawyers were objecting. But Judge Diamond was overruling almost every objection, to the point where Seth's lawyers were shaking their heads.

When Defriece brought up purchases on a Lord & Taylor charge card, Williams asked the nursing home administrator what he should do about it. She advised Williams to cut up Mom's credit card.

Williams, Defriece said, never accepted responsibility for the purchases. He always blamed his mother for the spending. And then he would say "he had to talk to his mother" about it, Defriece said.

There were a "lot of red flags" about the Imelda Williams' account, Defriece said. She began writing emails notifying higher ups at the archdiocese about those problems. The superiors included a nursing home administrator, a nursing home controller, and the CFO of the archdiocese.

"He's basically ignoring  us," Defriece wrote her bosses about D.A. Williams. She complained about "a lack of cooperation" on the part of the D.A.

In response, one administrator wrote in an email that his "evil side" was suggesting that Defriece "threaten to make his [the D.A.'s] behavior known to the media," but it never happened.

Defriece suggested that perhaps one of her male superiors should talk to Williams because he wasn't taking her seriously. She was also worried about consequences of harassing Philadelphia's top law enforcement officer at a time when he was prosecuting Catholic priests.

"I don't want to get arrested for harassment," Defriece wrote in one email complaining about Rufus Seth Williams. But she wasn't getting anywhere chasing Williams for money, and her nursing home was getting stiffed.

"Clearly, he is not taking responsibility," Defriece wrote her bosses about Williams.

Eventually, Imelda Williams ran up a tab of $28,000 at the nursing home, a tab that grew to $36,000. Meanwhile, Rufus Seth Williams, the alleged "responsible person" who was supposed to be taking care of Mom's account, "couldn't be bothered with it," Defriece told the jury.

"The bleed was going to keep going," she said. "I knew it was a huge problem."

Defriece finally solved her problem by going to Imelda Williams, and getting her to sign over her all her income to the nursing home, minus $45 a month. But the nursing home was left with a $8,800 tab for previous missing income that had never been turned over.

"Did he [Williams] ever pay that bill," Zauzmer asked.

"No, he did not," Defriece said.

When Defriece sent bills to the D.A. for the money he owed the nursing home, Williams ignored them.

"I do not anticipate that he [Williams] will even open the bill," Defriece wrote her superiors in frustration. She confided to her bosses that she "wasn't too comfortable" about chasing Williams.

"I just wanted to do my job, and not go chasing after the district attorney for money," she testified. She worried that as the bills piled up, "the fact that he [Williams] spent her [Mom's] income will get lost," Defriece wrote her bosses.

Defriece said she had little to show for her ten months of efforts to try and get Rufus Seth Williams to pay his mother's nursing home bills.

By December, 2012, the unpaid tab at St. Francis stood at $12,000.

Did the nursing home take the hit on that, the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, we did," Defriece said.

Sadly for Williams, monkeying with Mom's money was nothing new. Back in 2009 in Philadelphia Election Court, Williams got in trouble for using his mother's credit card to pay for his plane fare, rental car and hotel accommodations when he attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and failed to report it as income.

Back in 2009, Williams' actions got him briefly kicked off the ballot as a candidate for D.A. He obviously never learned his lesson.

On cross-examination today in federal court, Thomas Burke, Williams' defense lawyer, asked Defriece if the financial forms that Williams had to sign for his mother's care were "overwhelming."

"It can be," she conceded. They were talking about 40 to 50 pages of forms that Williams had to fill out concerning Mom's care.

Defriece was still on the witness stand when Judge Paul S. Diamond sent the jury home for the day.

After the jury left the room, prosecutor Zauzmer complained that Juror No 11 was dozing.

"Want to make your presentation more interesting," the judge suggested.

Earlier, when it was time for opening statements Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri portrayed Williams, the city's chief law enforcement officer, as a guy who always had his hand out for money.

"He's been asking for and taking bribes," Gauri said about Williams. In exchange, Williams would provide the "power and influence of his office."

"Whenever Seth Williams had a chance to put his hand in someone's pocket, he did," Gauri said. His goal was always to "line his pockets."

"He was living way beyond his means," the prosecutor said. "He never missed an opportunity to steal money."

That's why Williams would accept checks, gifts, and airline tickets from a couple of wealthy businessmen who have become cooperating witnesses, the prosecutor said. When Williams wasn't stealing money from his political action committee, or driving around city-owned vehicles that he had no right to use, the prosecutor said.

"Seth Williams was constantly on the take," the prosecutor said. "He committed those crimes so he could live beyond his means. He took bribes and stole money."

With Seth, it's all about the money. Which is why he's refused to step down as D.A., even though he's under indictment, and no longer has a license to practice law. So he can still draw that $170,000 salary.

When Thomas Burke stood up to defend Williams, he went on offense.

During his seven and a half years in office, Burke said of Williams, the D.A. prosecuted 500,000 cases. And "not one single case was tainted" by the financial transactions described in the indictment, Burke told the jury.

"No case was compromised under Seth Williams," he said.

Obviously, Burke never heard about Billy Doe. But he was on a roll.

What the feds wanted to find was evidence that Seth Williams fixed a case, Burke declared. Or a witness who could testify about a fixed case.

 But after a government investigation that produced some 200,000 documents, "I'm here to tell tell you that witness doesn't exist," Burke said. "This investigation, ladies and gentlemen, was a search for a crime," he said.

That's why the government indictment includes five alleged schemes bundled together, Burke told the jury Because none of those cases "could stand on their own."

But Seth Williams has his flaws, his lawyer conceded to the jury.

"He made bad mistakes," his lawyer said. "He exercised poor judgment."

"He can't keep his finances straight," Burke admitted. Williams also has a "messy personal life."

But while he did accept gifts from a couple of wealthy friends, Burke said, the favors that Williams did for his friends did not constitute "official acts."

To prove its case against Williams, Burke said, the government has to prove "quid pro quos," a Latin phrase meaning "this for that." As in, you give me this, and I'll give you that.

To convict Williams, Burke said, the government has to prove that the relationships Williams had with his wealthy friends were "transactional."

But in reality, they were real friendships, Burke said. "These guys texted each other like a couple of school girls."

Many times, Burke said, Williams offered to help his friends, but wasn't able to do anything.

"If you're looking for back room deals and cases being dismissed," Burke told the jury, "You're going to be disappointed.

"They can prove the this," Burke said about the alleged quid pro quos. "But they won't be able to prove the that."

The case resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.


  1. Burke is not off to a good start. His comment about trips caused the government to motion again to admit evidence of the March 2011 Punta Cana trip. The judge found that Burke opened the door, and the evidence is now in.

    He then claims "not a single case was tainted..." and "that witness doesn't exist."

    I hear another door opening.

  2. I've always felt that "Rufus" is a "lovable bad boy" character created to serve as a distraction. He serves to distract us from the more nefarious dealings of the various Zio-Mafia cabals that are now basically pretending to serve as our government. They are involved in child sex trafficking, fueling the opioid crisis as another distraction, shooting hoaxes, etc, etc. All this also serves to sell made-up news in the "Inky" and all other garbage quasi-mafia papers.

    Josh Shapiro can pretend to be the big tough "savior" that protects us from the opioid crisis that is controlled to bolster his image, albeit, a false one. And remember how We sure got a lot of Rufus distraction when Kathleen Kane was getting too close with her state government porn investigation?

    It's all about generating cash flow for the corrupt cabal that think their grand illusion will never be exposed. And of course, jailing the innocent that are a threat to their illusion.

  3. Ralph,
    Thank you for covering this court trial. I look forward to what I hope will be daily reports and insight from you as to what occurred in the courtroom. I believe this will be a fascinating case.

    1. Yes, thanks Ralph for covering the trial, without your reporting we would just be subjected to the prosecutions version of the trial.Like juror No.11 showing boredom, that person has been reading about the case for months, the prosecutions lays out the trial for us, just in case we are called to be jurors we have all the facts. Seth is being treated to the same media blitz that he created for the Monsignor Lynn case. Why bother paying attention.

  4. They could have also charged him for giving city jobs to women he was screwing, and to folks that gave big donations....lots of quid pro quo....including the Levants!!


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