Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
For more information about Jo, check out her Linked-in profile, as well as her Facebook fan page, Instagram and Google+
Friday, December 30, 2016
State Ethics Commission investigating indicted Lower Southampton deputy constable
Posted December 30, 2016
For the past five years, a Lower Southampton deputy state constable charged with using his private businesses as part of a money laundering scheme hasn't filed mandatory documents that require the listing of outside financial interests of publicly elected officials, according to the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission.
The executive director of the commission on Thursday said the agency has opened a formal investigation into whether Bernard Rafferty, 62, intentionally avoided filing the disclosures to conceal a conflict of interest. Intentionally withholding information in a statement of financial interest is a misdemeanor crime that carries a potential penalty of a $2,500 fine or a year in prison.
Rafferty opened at least two businesses after he stopped filing the required financial disclosure forms, according to state business and ethics commission records. One of the businesses — Raff’s Consulting — figures prominently in the U.S. Attorney's money-laundering case involving Rafferty and two co-defendants.
Rafferty, along with District Judge John Waltman, 59, of Lower Southampton, and Lower Southampton Director of Public Safety Robert P. Hoopes, 69, of Doylestown, were indicted by a grand jury earlier this month in federal court in Philadelphia for conspiring to launder $400,000 believed to be proceeds of health care fraud, illegal drug trafficking and bank fraud, according to an indictment.
The men are accused of conspiracy to commit money laundering and aiding and abetting money laundering, and they have been suspended without pay from their respective positions. Each remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail while awaiting a Jan. 5 formal arraignment in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Authorities allege the men received $80,000 in fees from undercover agents posing as criminals seeking to turn dirty money into clean cash. The alleged crimes took place between June 2015 and this past November, according to the federal indictment.
This news organization was unsuccessful in reaching Brian Puricelli, the attorney of record for Rafferty, for comment Thursday. Hoopes has no attorney of record listed with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Louis Busico, who represents Waltman, said his client “completely and adamantly” denies all the allegations.
Rafferty failed to submit the annual financial interest statements since 2011, a situation the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission office became aware of in August, according to Robert Caruso, the commission’s executive director. The commission filed an enforcement action against Rafferty that same month, but he failed to file the statements within 20 days of the sending of the notice of noncompliance, Caruso said. A second notice is being prepared, as required under the law, Caruso said.
The State Ethics Commission fined Rafferty $50 in October 2000 for failing to file his 1998 statement of financial interest, according to public records.
The commission is responsible for conducting compliance checks with municipal and state officials who are required to file the financial interest statements, which detail any outside direct or indirect sources of income, gifts, real estate interests or other items local and state public officials receive.
Caruso said his office receives a list of the state’s constables and deputy constables, who are elected by the public, from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The list is used to send reminders about filing the financial interest statement annually, he said.
This news organization obtained copies of Rafferty’s financial disclosure statements covering the calendar years of 2002 through 2010 through a Right to Know request. Rafferty has been a deputy constable in Lower Southampton since 1993. He previously worked under Waltman, who was a constable before he was appointed the district judge for the magisterial court in Lower Southampton in 2010.
A review of those previous years’ forms found that Rafferty listed financial interest in a for-profit business in his 2002 statement, but the handwritten name of the business is illegible. The business address was listed as 2304 Brownsville Road, which is the location of the Eastern Dawn mobile home park, where Rafferty lives, according to county records.
None of the previous disclosure statements listed any outside employment, transportation, lodging, gifts, or real estate interests. Constables and deputy constables are not barred from operating an outside business, but such an enterprise must be disclosed, Caruso said.
Rafferty’s most recent statement was filed in January 2011 for the previous year, and in May 2011, he registered Raff's Consulting with the Pennsylvania Department of State, records show.
Available public documents offer little insight into what kind of consulting work Rafferty performed, and both the company’s website and Facebook page were deleted shortly after the indictment was unsealed. Raff’s Consulting’s former Facebook page stated that the company provides, among other things, accountants, business mergers, venues, real estate, loans/banking, photography and travel.
Rafferty also registered another business with the state, R & R Publishing LLC, in February, according to public records. On the former Facebook page, Rafferty promoted R & R Publishing and a magazine it was producing called “Hamptons TM.”
Rafferty and his consulting business received a consulting credit in four YouTube videos filmed last year and produced by a Lower Southampton photo studio. Raff’s Consulting also participated in other photo and video work with the same photo studio, according to the business’ Facebook page.
State records for Raff’s Consulting LLC list its address as 1331 O’Reilly Drive in Lower Southampton, but Raff’s Consulting’s business website listed its address as Hoopes' former Doylestown law office. County property records show Hoopes sold the office in May to New Hope Capital Investors LLC in Horsham.
In a statement of financial interests provided by Lower Southampton and signed by Hoopes in April, no list of gifts or real estate interests were listed. He was hired Feb. 10 as director of public safety for the township, replacing former police Chief William Wiegman Jr., who retired in December.
Waltman’s statements of financial interest, which are held by the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, are being sought by this news organization.
According to the grand jury indictment, in each of three incidents, Hoopes withdrew money from his bank account, deposited it into Raff’s Consulting’s account at the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, and Rafferty then obtained a check drawn on the business account in an amount equal to 80 percent of the total cash to be laundered for undercover officers, authorities allege.
Waltman, Hoopes and Rafferty then allegedly obtained bogus documents, including invoices to Raff’s Consulting, nondisclosure agreements, consulting agreements, zoning applications, land surveys and other “sham” documents, which provided a pretext for their money laundering, according to court documents. Waltman was present during at least one of the dirty money exchanges, the feds allege.
The three defendants met three times with undercover officers and exchanged a check and "documents" for a bag filled with at least $100,000.
Authorities allege that Hoopes conducted the transactions with the officers while Waltman and Rafferty waited in Rafferty's car.