Thursday, June 11, 2020

Do Private Security Details Amount To Fraud?

By Ralph Cipriano

Those private 24/7 security details for top city officials and their significant others may be over, but questions remain about how the city handled at least $240,000 in expenses for those details.

Was it simply a double-standard for the folks at the top of the City Hall pay scale at the expense of the rest of us, or was it fraud?

"At the very least it's inappropriate because they [the VIPs] were treated differently than the people they represent," said one seasoned former prosecutor who preferred anonymity. 

"And at most, they've committed a fraud because those funds were there to deal with issues caused by the protests, such as rioting, and looting," the seasoned former prosecutor said. Those funds were not intended to provide private police protection for top city officials "at the expense of the rest of the citizens whose lives and property were in danger."

A former federal prosecutor who also sought anonymity went a step further, saying it was doubtful that there was "a shred of evidence to support such protection." He wondered if all the officials who benefited from those 24/7 security details outside their homes had "received credible threats" to their safety.

"Secondly, disguising the payments is classic evidence of fraudulent conduct," the former federal prosecutor said. "Clearly a wrongful expenditure of public funds."

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., the city abruptly suspended the round-the-clock security details that they'd been providing VIPs for the previous 11 days. Those details involved the deployment of plainclothes detectives in unmarked cars working 8-hour shifts around the clock.

The honchos the cops were protecting included Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer, Deputy Mayor James Engler, Managing Director Brian Abernathy, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, and Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams. 

Other beneficiaries of the private security details included 16 of 17 City Council members, and Letitia Santarelli, who is Mayor Kenney's fiancee.

The estimated cost of the private security details: at least $240,000 in salaries, not counting overtime.

The bill for the private security was being listed as part of the police response to the protests and rioting so it would be paid for by the feds. The expenses for the details were listed by city officials in the Daily Attendance Records System under the guise of "Justice4Floyd," the code for police response to the protests.

But since the money wasn't being spent on police response to the riots, but rather on private security details, the city had a choice to make. 

It could have taken the money for the private security details out of its own emergency funds. But trying to charge those expenses off to the feds as part of the official police response to the protests, rioting and looting may not be viewed favorably by the federal government.

Especially with Jim "Sanctuary City" Kenney as our mayor, who never misses an opportunity to trash President Trump, or thumb his nose at the feds. Could that posture come back to haunt our Progressive mayor?

Officials at several government agencies contacted by Big Trial were officially mum on the subject of whether the city's budget games were kosher. 

 Meanwhile, several paid mouthpieces at City Hall were either trying to distance themselves from the issue, or dodging questions that they didn't want to answer.

The fun started with a spokesperson for City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the leader of a majority of City Council members who's been outspoken about reforming the Police Department, as well as trimming its budget by $14 million.

Vince Thompson, Councilman Johnson's spokesperson, referred comment to Joe Grace, the spokesperson for City Council President Darrell Clarke. While police sources had said that the private security details had been requested by City Council members, Grace said that "City Council played no role on the security issue nor requested it."

He referred comment to Deana Gamble, a spokesperson for the mayor's press office, 

"We can confirm that some city officials received additional personal protection," Gamble wrote in an email. "This was done out of an abundance of caution. Because this is a security matter, we are unable at this time to provide more specifics. We can say however that City Council did not proactively request this additional protection."

Well, at least they're all sticking to the same script.

Gamble also stated that the city's "Emergency Operations Center was deactivated on Tuesday at 6 p.m. because "it was no longer deemed necessary for the demonstration response. As a result, the additional personal protection was also no longer deemed necessary."

Cops, however, said the Big Trial story that outed the private security details resulted in "panicked" calls from supervisors canceling the details. But Gamble called the timing of the cancellation of the security details just "a coincidence." She also declined to comment on how much the details had cost, or discuss how many other officials may have benefitted from them. 

Gamble also did not respond to questions about the mayor's fiancee, and why she has been the subject of security details, apparently for months, sources said. As part of that detail, the cops have been driving Santarelli back and forth to New Jersey, but Gamble did not respond to a request for comment on that situation as well. 


  1. Isn't it just great they had special protection for the city "elite" while neighborhoods were being burned down and police officers were being assaulted by bottles, bricks, piss bombs, bleach and other chemicals? Will anyone be held accountable for this? My guess is no.

  2. My son in law is one of those detectives detailed to do so, this is an outrage!!! To use the police to protect the very same people who want to defund the police is such a Hypocritical dick move! And why the heck is Kenneys fiance so special?? Using the city finances and then expect money from a President you constantly bash, you JO...Philly hates Kenney ya rat basted with no back bone douche

  3. Well let me just say that there is official curiosity about how this caper was handled by our illustrious leaders.

    I'm just wondering what it would take to get the Inquirer to cover this story.

  4. I wonder if our wonderful Special Investigations Unit in the DA Office will investigate? Oh wait Rocks only locks up cops not Public Officials!! The DARS say it all!!

  5. Great work Ralph. I think you know just as well as I do what all those “no comment” responses mean :-)

  6. I'd like to see this national conversation widened to include prosecutors, as a longtime bigtrial reader you have shown us how the prosecution distorts reality and uses the media to control the narrative. Prosecutors' actions have real-world implications for a defendant, their words carry more clout than a voiceless defendant, who is not to be believed. Mainstream media bows to their command.

    If the police have been accused of being weaponized, we can say the same about prosecutors given absolute immunity and using the media to sway public opinion. If police are being told that they are not needed for every call, such as being used as an ambulance or for a mental health issue, the same can be said about prosecutors. Bringing cases against defendants that were completely unnecessary. One such case was the Philadelphia Traffic Court Trail, there was an Ethics Board already in place who could have handled any complaints. If police are accused of escalating a situation instead of de-escalating in certain incidents, then the feds certainly can be accused of the same treatment. There are cases that should never have made it to a federal courtroom, let alone attempting to put people in jail for decades.

    Were we really in imminent danger of high school grads wearing judicial robes, sporting two weeks of instructions in Harrisburg who generated 20 million dollars a year into the state coffers or were we more in danger as a society of having an FBI agent and prosecutors who lied, hid evidence and tried to hide witnesses from testifying? Was the media blitz necessary to make sure the public was foaming at the mouth in anger? If we need a national reckoning, the media and the public need to say there is a better way to handle systems that could be flawed other than jailing everyone. Hiding behind "fighting corruption" is a lame excuse as the media seems to decide who is corrupt and who gets a pass on corruption.


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