Federal agents arrested a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge and a state legislative aide on charges that they misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants, paying off friends, relatives, and themselves with money that was earmarked to revitalize a city neighborhood and support local police, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A 43-count indictment accused Judge Robert Mulgrew and Lorraine DiSpaldo of wire and mail fraud, obstruction, and other counts stemming from their roles in two nonprofit civic groups.
Mulgrew’s wife, Elizabeth, was also charged with her husband for signing tax returns from 2006 to 2010 that allegedly hid their real income. Lawyers for the three proclaimed their innocence and promised a fight in court. Nearly $900,000 in state grants poured into the groups between 1996 and 2008, part of the mountain of state money earmarked each year for “economic development” that flows, sometimes unchecked, from Harrisburg to civic organizations. One group sought grants for equipment and materials to maintain a park and neighborhood; the other pledged to spend on phone equipment for police officers and materials to secure vacant lots. Some grant money was spent as promised. According to the indictment, much was not.