Thursday, January 29, 2015
Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Talk about a dirty fight.
A 38-year-old Philadelphia man is accused of throwing a bag of dog feces at an apartment door before breaking the nose of the tenant’s boyfriend and stealing her cellphone, which captured the assault, police said.
Middletown police responded to the Harpers Crossing apartment complex Saturday night after receiving a report of an assault and robbery in the 100 building.
The woman who lives in the apartment told police she saw a man approach her apartment from the unit above hers and throw a plastic bag at her door before taking off. The bag contained dog feces, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The woman and her boyfriend went upstairs to confront the man, who lives in Philadelphia but dates a woman in the building, about leaving the bag, police said. When the boyfriend accused Stephen Vesotsky of trying to get his girlfriend evicted for having a new puppy, Vesotsky became irate and suddenly punched the man in the face, according to court documents.
The girlfriend claimed that she captured the assault on her smartphone camera, showed it to Vesotsky, who lunged at her, grabbed the phone and threw it off the second-floor balcony, police said.
Vesotsky then punched the boyfriend in the face a second time, breaking his nose, the affidavit shows.
The officer who responded noted that blood was spattered on the walls, pavement, stairwell and doors outside the apartment. The woman’s boyfriend was heavily bleeding from his face, the affidavit said.
When the boyfriend announced he was leaving to call police, Vesotsky pushed the woman down the stairwell, ran to where her smartphone landed, picked it up and refused to return it, the affidavit said. Police later found the bag of feces in the bushes of another building, but the phone was not found.
The boyfriend was taken to Aria Health Bucks County campus in Falls, where he was treated for the broken nose and received stitches to close facial cuts, police said.
While police were in the emergency room, they learned that Vesotsky was also there seeking treatment for a cut to his hand, authorities said. When a hospital worker asked how the injury happened, Vesotsky allegedly replied that he “punched his neighbor in the face,” according to the affidavit.
Police later spoke with Vesotsky in the ER and said he offered a different version of events. He denied leaving dog feces, assaulting the man or stealing a smartphone.
Vesotsky claimed he was at his girlfriend’s apartment when he heard pounding on the front door. When he answered it, he alleges his neighbor’s boyfriend attacked him, the affidavit said. Vesotsky claimed that he punched the man in self-defense before retreating back into the apartment, police said.
Vesotsky said that he didn’t call police immediately because he wanted to go to the emergency room for his injured hand and, once there, he told staff to call the police, court documents allege.
Vesotsky is charged with felony robbery, as well as other misdemeanor charges including simple assault, reckless endangering and theft. He was arraigned Sunday before District Judge Gary Gambardella and released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015
A 38-year-old former day care teacher is accused of roughing up and possibly choking a toddler she was watching last week.
Nataliya Manzyk, who lives in Lower Southampton, is seen on surveillance video grabbing the child from behind and throwing him across the floor of the Sunshine Daycare in the 500 block of Harding Avenue on Jan. 7, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Seconds later, the boy is seen being dragged an “extensive” distance across the room by the hood of his sweatshirt and left in a corner, police said. Manzyk then is seen standing above the crying boy and appears to be yelling at him, the affidavit said.
The force of being dragged caused injury to the child’s neck and cheek and it appears Manzyk may have “briefly choked” the child, court documents show.
The boy’s parents, who contacted police, showed pictures of the injured child to police, who said the injuries appear consistent with being dragged and contact made to the throat.
Lower Southampton Lt. Ted Krimmel said Manzyk no longer works at the day care center, and the center is cooperating with police.
The newspaper was not successful in reaching the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for comment or to find out if the incident was reported to the agency, which oversees licensed day care centers.
Manzyk was arraigned Tuesday before District Judge Joanne Kline on misdemeanor charges of simple assault, endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment and summary harassment. She was released on $50,000 unsecured bail.
Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
A 36-year-old Bensalem man is accused of inappropriately touching two 10-year-old girls during sleepovers at his house.
One of the girls’ parents went to Bensalem police headquarters on Jan. 5 to report that their daughter was inappropriately touched by David Huebsch during a New Year’s Eve sleepover at his Beech Lane home, according to a probable cause affidavit.
|David Huebsch led into his arraignment|
During an investigation, police learned that a second child reported that between August and December 2013, Huebsch allegedly molested her several times during sleepovers at his home, according to the affidavit.
Huebsch, who in court Tuesday told a judge that he works in information technology, is charged with four counts of felony indecent assault on a person under age 13, two counts of felony corruption of minors and felony unlawful contact with a minor.
He was arraigned before District Judge Joseph Falcone and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $750,000 bail. He was also ordered to have no contact with any minors including his own children as a bail condition.
After the arraignment, Huebsch’s attorney, Nick Mancini, who had argued for unsecured bail for his client, said he’ll request a bail reduction at the county court level.
“That is an extraordinary high bail for this offense,” he said, adding that his client says he is innocent of the charges.
Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2015
Those charged in grand jury report
Claire Risoldi is either one unlucky Bucks County matriarch or one devious enough to lead what authorities call a scheme to commit a multimillion dollar insurance fraud.
Between 1984 and 2013, Claire and her family said they’ve experienced four burglaries and three house fires in which they lost millions.
Those payments, however, were based on falsified claims, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who on Thursday released a 47-page grand jury presentment that specifies accusations against Claire, four in her immediate family, their private investigator and a fabric vendor who sold window treatments.
While AIG is mentioned often in the grand jury's report, the insurer wasn't the only one to scrutinize claims made by the Risoldis. Other insurers and police did, too.
A day after she and the other defendants were arraigned on charges and released on bail, Claire Risoldi denied any wrongdoing.
“This is just horrible, just horrible. We’ve had nothing but heartache since my house burned down,” she said as she stood in the doorway of a home she said she rents while her nearby mansion is renovated.
"I feel like when I'm reading this," she added, "I feel like I'm reading about someone else."
The grand jury's report, which is based on testimony from more than 80 witnesses and reviews of more than 100 exhibits, accuses Claire Risoldi, her family members and two co-conspirators with defrauding AIG and intimidating investigators who asked too many questions.
A Kane spokesman said the office wouldn't release any other information beyond what's in the presentment.
In its report, the grand jury said the evidence "established that the Risoldi family has a history of filing questionable insurance claims for the past 20 to 30 years." The 2013 fire unearthed evidence that called into question other claims they made against other insurers, including $200,000 the family collected after a 2002 reported burglary at Clairemont, the report said.
The grand jury found the Risoldis had spent significant amounts of insurance money designated for living expenses on luxuries, including $1 million for exotic and antique cars, and more than $600,000 to buy two homes (and renovate one of them) with money that was supposed to cover rental housing while Clairemont was being restored. As part of its investigation, the state has seized $7 million in family assets, including $3 million in bank accounts and $1.2 million in jewelry.
In 1984, Claire Risoldi told police someone broke into the Risoldi’s Tower Circle home in Lower Makefield and took $200,000 worth of jewelry, among other items. The house was left in shambles with slashed upholstery, a broken mirror and paint poured on the carpeting, according to court records.
Nine years later, Carla Risoldi reported to police the Tower Circle home was burglarized again using the same method as was documented in 1984: breaking a window on a door and unlocking the deadbolt. Again, the suspect not only took a painting —an original Pablo Picasso signed by the artist — and jewelry, but also poured paint on carpeting, slashed upholstery and smashed mirrors.
But something about the second burglary didn’t sit right with the family’s then-insurer, Nationwide. It refused to pay the six-figure claim the family filed, citing allegations of fraud and concealment, court records say. The family sued in federal court, alleging the insurer had acted in “bad faith,” and the case was settled in 1996 for $80,000, records say.
The grand jury's report also revealed new, questionable elements with the Tower Circle burglaries:
• Pieces of jewelry that Claire Risoldi reported stolen to Lower Makefield police in 1993 were discovered in her possession in August 2014.
• Original appraisal forms that Claire Risoldi submitted to Lower Makefield police for the 1984 jewelry theft with the original values whited-out and new values typed in were found while executing a search warrant last year at Clairemont. The typed-in prices matched what was submitted to police in 1984.
The report also noted that appraisals for stolen jewelry filed in 1984, 1993, 2002 and 2013 lacked photos to prove the existence and value of the items.
Insurance representatives weren’t the only ones who were suspicious about the burglary claims back in 1993.
“I remember that case,” Lower Makefield police Lt. Tom Roche said Friday. "We thought it was an ‘insurance job’ from the get go ... Those of us that are still here, when we heard of the (2013 Clairemont) fire, we were immediately suspicious.”
Claire Risoldi and first husband Carl P. Risoldi bought Clairemont in 2000 for $900,000, according to county property records. In 2004, Claire Risoldi transferred her ownership of the property to daughter Carla V. Risold and son Carl A. Risoldi, who now own the home, records show.
Not long after the family moved into the mansion in 2002 — a year after Risoldi patriarch and Claire’s first husband, Carl P. Risoldi, died — the home was burglarized, court records show, after which time the family reported the theft of five furs, silverware and jewelry.
The insurance claims took a long time to settle because there were issues with proving the theft of the jewelry, according to the grand jury testimony from a public adjuster Claire Risoldi hired to submit her claim to her then-insurer, Fireman’s Fund.
After Claire Risoldi executed a sworn statement in proof of loss, she received $208,888, the maximum amount covered under her policy, the grand jury’s report said.
In 2009, a fire damaged a spare bedroom at Clairemont before it was placed under control, according to a news report. In August 2010, a second fire broke out in the home’s attic, which caused more extensive damage. The October 2013 fire also started in the attic.
Buckingham Fire Marshal Jim Kettler investigated the three fires and ruled each one as “undetermined,” but noted “significant similarities” among them, notably that "in all three fires there were large quantities of highly flammable and explosive cans of aerosol hairspray stockpiled near the points of origin,” according to the grand jury report.
None of the defendants in the attorney general's case is charged with arson.
Reached at his Buckingham home, just a short distance from his mother's, Carl Risoldi challenged allegations of fraud against his family, adding the “true side of the story” would come out during an as yet-to-be scheduled news conference.
“Insurance companies just don’t pay after three fires,” he said. “They did an extensive and intensive investigation. They were up in the attic for one to two weeks going through every detail.”
He also said the family has hired investigators who authored reports that counter the grand jury’s findings.
In one report that the Risoldis provided to Calkins Media, family-hired investigator James M. Jones concluded the 2013 fire was “clearly accidental in nature and associated with some type of mechanical malfunction of an aluminum wire that had been installed by an electrician.”
What set the October 2013 fire apart from the previous two at Clairemont is that Claire Risoldi falsely accused volunteer firefighters of stealing jewelry worth $7 million to $12 million, according to the grand jury’s presentment.
The report found the Risoldi family had increased its coverage on its jewelry from about $100,000 to nearly $11 million less than 25 days before the fire. And days before the fire, Carl Risoldi had retrieved all of the family's jewelry from safe deposit boxes at an area bank.
In her grand jury testimony, Claire Risoldi said the jewelry was retrieved in preparation for her wedding to Thomas J. French, a retired Bucks County deputy sheriff. The two were married Oct. 16, 2013, the same day Claire Risoldi had scheduled a $250-a-head fundraiser at Clairemont for Bucks County Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick. The political event was canceled, however.
Claire Risoldi told investigators that millions of dollars of jewelry was then placed in canvas bags on chairs by the front door “waiting to be returned to the bank” when the fire occurred on Oct. 22.
Family members testified they pleaded with the firefighters to get back into the house for their jewelry, but none of the first responders at the scene could corroborate that in their testimony to the grand jury. When the fire was extinguished, the family was allowed in, but the jewelry was gone, the family members testified.
Claire Risoldi provided what the grand jury described as the most compelling evidence that the jewelry theft could not have happened as the family described, according to investigators.
An AIG-assigned insurance adjuster who checked into the 2013 claim testified that in March 2014 he was allowed to inspect the two Risoldi Law Office bags containing more than 60 empty jewelry boxes — beige or white on the outside and lined with white satin — that the firefighters supposedly left behind, the grand jury report said.
“Notably although the bags were covered with black marks appearing to be some kind of dirt or soot, the jewelry boxes were all spotlessly clean, showing not a trace of visible evidence that they had been exposed to smoke and ash or the thousands of gallons of water and fire-fighting foam that had been used to extinguish the fire,” the report said.
The grand jury noted that at least one piece of stolen jewelry was recovered — at a jewelers where it had been sent for repairs.
A jewelry appraiser and forensic expert contracted by AIG testified in February 2014 he identified an 18-carat white gold and diamond dome ring that belonged to Claire Risoldi, which was later confirmed as one of the items she listed on her insurance claim as stolen during the 2013 fire, the report said.
The murals and drapes
"The family can be seen on the ceiling of Clairemont resplendent in flowing robes gazing down from the heavens."
Such was the grand jury's description of the $35,000, Romanesque-style mural painted by artist Russell Buckingham, of New York.
The grand jury also called the painting “flamboyant,” and accused Claire Risoldi of telling the artist to increase his initial quote to re-do the mural following the 2013 fire. Buckingham initially quoted her $40,000, "but Claire Risoldi told him to 'make it for a lot more money' and suggested the figure of $950,000," the amount she submitted in her claim to AIG, the grand jury said.
According to his testimony before the grand jury, Buckingham said Claire, Carl and Carla had asked him to prepare fraudulent, backdated receipts for the original murals he painted at Clairemont, amounting to $620,000.
With help from Richard Holston, the Medford Lakes, New Jersey, fabric vendor charged in the case, the Risoldis “aggressively” pressed their $2 million demand from AIG to cover the replacement of all window treatments at Clairemont, though Claire Risoldi told the company she had no documentation to provide regarding their cost because she lost the paperwork in the earlier fires and the fabric shop had lost its copies due to a change in ownership, the presentment said.
The grand jury also noted that Claire Risoldi had used a similar story to explain the lack of receipts to support her $1.2 million claim for replacing window treatments damaged in the 2010 fire at Clairemont.
According to the grand jury's report, more than 100 pages of invoices and other paperwork related to the window treatments “magically appeared” in September. They were delivered by private investigator Goldman, and many were “obviously fabricated,” Attorney General Kane's office said.
Among the largest of the fraud allegations is that the family had used money given them to rent two homes during Clairemont's most recent restoration to buy at least two homes using an apparent straw purchaser; the Risoldis also spent “significant” amount of insurance money to renovate one of the rented homes, the grand jury said in its report.
After the fire, Claire Risoldi moved to a home in the 4900 block of Danielle Drive that she rented for $4,000 a month from Tina Mazaheri, a Bucks County family law attorney who told the grand jury that she rented the home without a lease.
In March 2014, Mazaheri sold the house to the current owner of record, Karl Morris, but Claire Risoldi handled the sale arrangements and provided Morris with the money to buy the house, the grand jury said.
"Claire Risoldi paid Mazaheri for the house with two checks in the amounts of $105,000 and $300,000, and still owes Mazaheri $100,000," said the report, adding that Mazaheri testified to the grand jury that Claire Risoldi owns "at least two other homes on Danielle Drive."
The property arrangement is significant because AIG is paying Claire Risoldi $13,000 a month for renting the former Mazaheri home, according to the grand jury.
In her testimony, Mazaheri said Claire Risoldi had asked her to inflate the monthly rent she was paying when Mazaheri owned the home, to $12,000 a month, but Mazaheri refused, the report said.
“It’s Not Over”
That insurers paid what a grand jury says were suspicious and fraudulent claims doesn’t surprise private investigator Marc Bourne, of Know It All Intelligence in Bensalem.
“When you are dealing with some of the national insurance companies, they are handling thousands of claims on a daily basis. When it comes down to fraud, they’d rather pay out then go through a lawsuit,” he said.
While there are national databases in which insurance companies can research prior losses and claims, most insurance adjusters are simply too busy to take the time to dig into each and every claim, Bourne said, adding such databases to detect red flags in claims didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.
“As long as someone can give you the documentation that is needed it’s more a formality,” Bourne said. “It’s not until something in a large amount that will open their eyes to someone being greedy.”
But what is considered a "large amount" is in the eye of the policyholder, Bourne added.
While $20 million sounds like an astronomical amount, among very wealthy clients, it’s a drop in the bucket, he said.
“It’s not like they lived in a townhome and they’re claiming $2 million in jewelry,” Bourne said. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic. We see it as $20 million in losses, but these were considered high-profile clients of AIG.”
Bourne said the Risoldis raised suspicion after the firefighters were accused of stealing jewelry following the 2013 fire. That led to the insurance investigation and the attorney general’s involvement, he said.
“It’s very easy to commit insurance fraud in general, but do you want to take the risk of getting caught? Most people don’t want to do that,” he added. “I really think this (Risoldi) investigation has legs. It’s not over.”
Jo Ciavaglia: 215 949-4181; firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jociavaglia
The 47-page grand jury's presentment (report) is based on testimony from more than 80 witnesses and reviews of more than 100 exhibits, including insurance claims.
Those charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office with insurance fraud, theft by deception and criminal conspiracy, among other offenses are:
- Claire A. Risoldi, the 67-year-old matriarch of the politically active Risoldi family of Buckingham.
- Thomas J. French, Claire's 64-year-old second husband, a retired Bucks County deputy sheriff.
- Carla V. Risoldi, of Solebury, Claire's 48-year-old daughter, a private practice attorney and a former Bucks County prosecutor.
- Carl A. "Carlo" Risoldi, of Buckingham, Claire's 43-year-old son, a marketing and public relations specialist for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
- Sheila M. Risoldi, Claire's 43-year-old daughter-in-law (Carlo's wife).
- Mark Goldman, of Wayne, the family's 54-year-old private investigator.
- Richard Holston, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey, the family's 51-year-old fabric vendor.
Source: Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office
Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015
First, weather forecasters predicted that a monster 2 feet of snow would bury the Philadelphia region. That was Sunday.
By Monday afternoon, the prediction was for more of a thick blanket of up to 18 inches accompanied by wind gusts of 30 mph.
In the end, the predictions came true — just not in the tri-state region, which instead experienced a classic case of blizzard fizzle, forecasters said.
“It’s always a question we meteorologists ask ourselves, did we make the right call,” said Todd Miner, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Service in State College.
While parts of New York and New England states along the Atlantic coast were buried under a crippling winter storm that as predicted included blizzard conditions into Tuesday evening, at least a foot of snow, 70 mph wind gusts, thunder snow, coastal flooding and power outages, the Philadelphia and surrounding areas woke Tuesday to 4 inches or less of new snow.
The anticipated all-day storm had pretty much petered out in Bucks County by 8 a.m. Tuesday with Doylestown reporting 1½ inches and Penndel 3 inches. In Montgomery County, accumulations ranged from a half-inch to 2½ inches, according to AccuWeather.
Left in this winter weather’s wake: thousands of kids with a day off from school or a late opening, states of emergency in place throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bare supermarket shelves, travel bans, airport delays, packed SEPTA trains running on a reduced schedule for the day, and embarrassed weather forecasters.
“My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public,” Gary Szatkowski of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, wrote in a Tweet. “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t. Once again, I’m sorry.”
So what happened?
Computer weather models are not as predictable as people might believe, forecasters said. All along it was anticipated the storm would have a sharp cutoff point as far as what parts of the tri-state area would be get a dusting versus getting walloped, forecasters said.
With Monday’s storm, the center of low pressure developed 90 miles farther east into the Atlantic Ocean, taking with it all the heavier bands of snow that were expected to develop down the New Jersey coast and eastern Pennsylvania, NWS meteorologist Kristin Kline said.
New model data questioning the track of the low pressure center and moisture wraparound started coming in around late Monday afternoon, Kline said. Before 10 p.m., as NWS meteorologists started watching the radar, they started seeing things that led them to believe the anticipated big snow totals weren’t coming for Philadelphia and New Jersey and they tried to put out revised snow total predictions, Kline said.
The problem with Monday’s storm system is that with only 12 to 18 hours out, the model data offered a wide range of options as far as where the storm was set up and intensify and where snow bands would develop. Usually in that time range the model data is consistent, but in this case it wasn’t, Kline said.
“There was a lot of uncertainty with this storm,” Kline added. “It was one of those things where someone was going to get pounded.”
AccuWeather meteorologist Todd Miner explained that the main weather system responsible for Monday’s storm — an Alberta Clipper — swept across the northern part of the United States until it hit the Atlantic Ocean, and that typically means a bad winter storm for New England states. The problem with storms like that one is forecasting its western boundary — the back-end so to speak — which makes the difference between a winter wallop or glancing blow, Miner said.
With this storm, meteorologists knew from the get-go that the far eastern Pennsylvania extending into New York region was on the cusp of the storm — the so-called “zone of uncertainty” — Miner said. As a collective unit, the decision was made to err on the side of caution when it came to suggesting storm impact, he added.
“We can’t make a Tuesday forecast on Wednesday. People want to know things ahead of time,” Miner said. “It takes a lot of time to analyze these models and figure out which one to go with.”
Another challenge for modern weather forecasting is the number of available computer models and data, Miner said. Until the mid-1990s, forecasters had only a few models that simulated atmospheric conditions. Now hundreds exist.
“When a fair bit of them call for a big storm in a metropolitan area — even if it’s just half of them saying it — what do you do?” Miner said. “Go for it and have nothing happen or vice versa.”
Sometimes old-fashioned conceptual models, which look at how the atmosphere typically behaves and what weather patterns usually evolve, are more accurate. In the case of the Alberta Clipper that preceded Monday’s storm, the old models would have leaned toward exactly the type of snow event Pennsylvania and New Jersey experienced, Miner said.
For now, the Mount Holly weather service bureau will re-evaluate its storm modeling to figure out how it can do a better job letting people know about uncertainty with the forecasts like the one Monday, Kline said.
As for the rest of the week, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly is predicting a quick-moving clipper system will pass through the Philadelphia area Thursday into Friday that could produce about an inch of snow, Kline said.
Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
A 48-year-old Feasterville woman awaiting trial on charges she stole nearly $350,000 from her former employer is now accused of stealing more than his money.
Upper Southampton police allege that Susan Simonson also stole a prescription pad from the doctor’s office where she worked for 15 years and wrote nearly 200 prescriptions for thousands of pills, most for powerful painkillers, over three years.
Police started investigating Simonson in connection with the fraudulent prescriptions after her October arrest on the theft charges. That’s when the doctor contacted Detective Craig Rudisill claiming a Philadelphia pharmacy had called him to confirm a prescription the doctor had not written. The doctor suspected Simonson and another woman, a former employee.
Simonson had worked in the medical office as a full-time office manager and secretary, police said.
Rudisill reviewed the narcotic prescriptions filed under the doctor’s name since 2011 and found that Simonson filled 76 prescriptions for a total of 6,850 Oxycodone and Percocet tablets between 2011 and September 2014, court documents said.
The doctor confirmed he never wrote Simonson a prescription for the drugs, which were filled at three pharmacies: a chain drug store in Upper Southampton and two independent drug stores in Philadelphia, according to a probable cause affidavit.
During the investigation, Rudisill also discovered another 87 fraudulent prescriptions written to Simonson using the doctor’s prescription pad for drugs including cholesterol reducing medication, water pills and methadone, which is used to treat opiate addiction, the affidavit said.
Simonson — who had been free on bail posted after her October arrest — was arraigned Tuesday night before District Judge Daniel Baranoski on 163 felony counts each of forgery, identity theft, access device fraud, 76 felony counts of prohibited acts as well as theft, and receiving stolen property.
She was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $75,000 bail.
The other woman suspected by the doctor in the prescription fraud case has not been charged.
Simonson’s trial in the theft case is set for next month in Bucks County Court. She is facing 700 counts of forgery as well as theft, and receiving stolen property charges for allegedly stealing the money between 2007 and July from the medical office.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015
A suspended Bucks County prison guard is accused of sexually harassing inmates he oversaw including entering cells to watch inmates use the bathroom and reducing punishments in exchange for demeaning tasks such as slapping another inmate’s butt or exposing their genitals, according to a grand jury investigation.
Joseph Mullen, 28, of Lower Southampton, was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Mark Douple on misdemeanor charges of official oppression and harassment and released on $75,000 unsecured bail. The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Mullen for comment Wednesday, and no attorney of record was listed for him in court filings.
Mullen, who has worked as a guard in Bucks since 2010, was suspended Wednesday from his position, but county spokesman Chris Edwards declined to say if he was on a paid suspension, saying it is a human resources matter.
“This type of conduct will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent when we discover it,” District Attorney David Heckler said in a news release announcing the arrest.
Prison Director William Plantier declined comment on the arrest Wednesday, citing pending criminal proceedings.
The alleged inappropriate behavior took place between July and September 2013, according to the Bucks County detectives who handled the investigation. Last year, the case was handed over to a grand jury, which recommended the filing of criminal charges.
Ten inmates testified in the closed-court proceedings about Mullen’s alleged vulgar and inappropriate behavior and comments, according to court papers. They claimed Mullen let them have “certain privileges” if they performed tasks such as exposing their genitals to him. They said the harassment got so bad they filed informal grievances known as “green slips.”
Court documents also state that two corrections officers testified before the grand jury that they were aware of the alleged actions or witnessed Mullen’s inappropriate behavior. One officer who worked with Mullen on D-block, or Delta, testified that she received “quite a few” complaints that Mullen wanted to strip search inmates, and that he was “selective” about enforcement of jail rules, court documents show.
One inmate, who had a TV inside his cell, appeared to experience the brunt of Mullen’s alleged harassment, court documents suggest. Other inmates on the block liked to gather in the man’s cell to watch TV, though it’s against prison rules for more than two inmates to be in a single cell at one time.
The inmate with the TV was punished on “numerous” occasions for breaking the two-inmate rule including several times by Mullen, authorities said. The typical punishment for the infraction is locking the prisoner in his cell for two hours, though guards can reduce the lock time, according to court documents.
On at least three occasions, the inmate testified that Mullen offered to release him early if he exposed his genitals to him. Another time when the inmate was caught watching TV with two inmates in his cell, Mullen locked them in, according to the testimony. But he released them after they complied with his order to play “patty cake” with each other and two men hugged, according to grand jury testimony.
The inmate with the TV — who was awaiting sentencing at the time — refused to file a complaint against Mullen after the incidents claiming he was embarrassed and feared retaliation, according to court documents. He claimed that the day after he was interviewed by investigators in connection with other inmate complaints against Mullen, he lost his job in the jail, authorities said.
The inmate did tell two people — his sister and a friend — about what was happening with Mullen, authorities said.
In a recorded conversation, the inmate told his friend that Mullen made him expose himself in order to avoid punishments and he complained Mullen constantly made sexual comments, asked inmates about homosexual situations and walked into his cell uninvited when he was using the bathroom and tried to engage him in conversation, court documents said.
The inmate also told his friend that his allegations would not be believed if he came forward because Mullen was a prison guard, and he was telling the friend in the event that he was injured in jail, court documents said. The inmate also wrote to his sister about that alleged sexual harassment and told her not to tell anyone about it.
Other inmates and a longtime county prison guard also claimed that Mullen visited inmate cells uninvited while they were using the bathroom and engaged them in sexual conversations, according to the grand jury.
Mullen also allegedly asked “numerous” inmates to subject themselves to strip searches — including two other D-block inmates who testified before the grand jury. The inmates claimed that strip searches were rarely conducted inside cell blocks and Mullen did not request a sergeant be present — which is procedure — for such searches.
Another time, Mullen also confiscated an inmate’s radio after he refused to provide Mullen with details about his past sexual experiences with a man, according to court papers. When the inmate filed a complaint, Mullen allegedly retaliated by locking him in his cell for no reason, the inmate told the grand jury.
In its presentment, the grand jury specifically noted that it could find no “legitimate” reason within the scope of Mullen’s job duties for him to stand inside inmate cells while they were using the bathroom and converse with them about any topic, including sexual ones.
“To the contrary, the only reason for Mullen to engage in this conduct was to harass, demean and humiliate the inmates involved,” according to the affidavit.
Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: email@example.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia
Bensalem police believe that a professional racehorse jockey was in a marijuana-induced haze when he allegedly went on a violent and half-naked crime spree that left him with life-threatening bullet wounds after breaking into two apartments.
Angel Suarez Medero, 21, was formally arraigned Tuesday at his hospital bedside where he has been since Dec. 28, when he was shot twice by a resident of one of the Franklin Commons apartments. Suarez Medero, who also lives in the complex with his girlfriend, faces felony burglary, criminal trespassing and related charges.
District Judge Leonard Brown set his bail at 10 percent of $250,000, but Suarez Medero remains hospitalized with liver and pancreas injures. He will remain under Bucks County prison guard watch until his discharge.
|Angel Suarez Medero|
The Courier Times was unsuccessful in reaching Suarez Medero’s attorney, William Goldman Jr., for comment Tuesday. Suarez Medero has been described as a promising jockey who races at Parx Racetrack in Bensalem, finishing in second place in the prestigious Eclipse Award for top apprentice jockey in 2012.
New details revealed in court documents outline the alleged trail of destruction that Suarez Medero blazed on Dec. 28 at the complex on the 1000 block of Bobolink Drive.
Suarez Medero’s girlfriend, also a professional racehorse jockey, told police that she was with him at their apartment earlier that day and that Suarez Medero was smoking marijuana during a trip to a nearby restaurant to pick up takeout food, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When the couple returned home, they had a “small argument” and Suarez Medero went into the bathroom, the girlfriend reportedly told police. When he came out, he was “acting off,” she said, according to the affidavit.
Suarez Medero’s mother told police that when her son left the bathroom he appeared to be having a “mental episode,” court documents show. The mother claimed he previously had a “mental episode” after smoking marijuana when they lived in Puerto Rico, police said.
A search warrant was executed at the couple’s Cardinal Drive apartment and police confiscated two small plastic bags containing what appeared to be marijuana on the nightstand drawer next to the bed, the affidavit said.
Bensalem police allege the rampage started shortly after 8:30 p.m. when a woman reported a man was standing on her second-floor balcony masturbating. As Nicole Donlen ran out of her apartment, she heard glass breaking and a man was running around the apartment she shared with her fiancé, police said.
When police arrived, they found the rear sliding glass door and rear bedroom window of the apartment broken and living room furniture overturned. Police later learned that Suarez Medero threw a chair through the sliding glass door and entered the apartment. They found fresh blood on the kitchen floor, bathroom door jamb and closet door.
While investigating the first call, officers received a report that a man was shot and being held at an apartment in the same building. The man who lived at the second apartment was on top of Suarez Medero and large amounts of blood dotted the living room and kitchen, according to court records.
The man told police that he and his wife were watching TV in the living room when they heard a banging from outside the rear of their apartment, court documents said. The wife opened the sliding glass door to investigate while the man retrieved his .45-caliber gun.
He then walked into the rear yard and was headed toward Donlen’s apartment when he saw Suarez Medero dive out of Donlen’s second floor window, police said.
Suarez Medero was wearing a white T-shirt and nothing else and had Donlen’s long-haired dachshund Ollie in his hand when he jumped, the man told police. As of Tuesday, Ollie remains missing, though he has been spotted in Bensalem and neighboring Bristol Township with the most recent sighting Sunday.
After he landed on the ground, Suarez Medero started in the man’s direction with his arms waving and talking “gibberish,” the affidavit said. Suarez Medero then entered the man’s apartment and grabbed his wife, who was standing in the kitchen, police said. The husband ran into the kitchen, confronted Suarez Medero and twice told him he had a gun.
The man fired the gun twice when Suarez Medero was running at him and wouldn’t stop, shooting him in the stomach area, court documents said.
But the bullets failed to stop him, police said, so the man grabbed Suarez Medero, took him to the ground and put him a headlock while his wife called 911. He held him like that until police arrived. The resident does not face any criminal charges in the shooting, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.
Suarez Medero then struggled with police while they were attempting to take him into custody, taking three officers to handcuff him, according to police.