Handcuffs Photo: Nito100/iStock

Former Bucks County Magisterial District Judge John I. Waltman has been sentenced by a federal judge to six-and-a-half years in prison for his involvement in a bribery and money laundering operation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced.

The sentence, handed down Monday by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, comes two years after an the indictment of Waltman, from Trevose; Robert P. Hoopes, a lawyer and director of public safety for Lower Southampton Township; and Bernard T. Rafferty, a county deputy constable who heads a consulting firm.

Waltman and his co-defendants were accused in an indictment and the two superseding indictments that followed of extorting bribes and kickbacks from county businessmen as well as offering to launder money for undercover FBI agents they believed were engaged in drug trafficking and health care fraud.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys Office in Philadelphia said Hoopes and Rafferty will be also sentenced this week.

“The laws of the land apply to everyone—especially to public officials who hold office to serve the public good,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “When public servants choose to flout the rule of law, they disgrace themselves and the offices they hold. Every public official should be on notice after today’s sentence: federal law enforcement is watching and we will hold you accountable if you make the wrong choices.”

Waltman’s attorney, Louis Busico, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

“A crooked judge trading on his position of trust is beyond disheartening,” said Michael T. Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It’s offensive. At every level, the justice system must operate in a fair and impartial manner. This is exactly the sort of case that deepens the public’s distrust of elected officials and government, which is why the FBI takes public corruption so seriously.”

Prosecutors alleged that the trio took $80,000 in fees from $400,000 in cash that a confidential witness and undercover federal agents told them came from drug-trafficking, and health care and bank fraud schemes.

In the first superseding indictment, prosecutors claim Waltman, Hoopes and Rafferty accepted a bribe of $1,000, as well as the promise of other fees, in exchange for the trio using their positions as public officials to “fix” a traffic case before Waltman. Authorities alleged Hoopes attempted to make a witness lie about the alleged bribe to the grand jury.

The December 2017 indictment alleged that each of the three money laundering transactions involved Hoopes withdrawing funds from his bank account and depositing them in the account for Rafferty’s consulting business, Raff’s Consulting LLC.

Rafferty then allegedly wrote checks from his business, for 80% of the total amount of cash to be laundered, to undercover law enforcement officers.

The three allegedly obtained “bogus documents—including invoices to Raff’s Consulting, nondisclosure agreements, consulting agreements, zoning applications, land surveys, and other sham documents, all of which provided a pretext for their money laundering—to be provided to undercover law enforcement officers,” the indictment said.

Prosecutors claim Hoopes drove an unmarked Lower Southampton police car to an office building in Feasterville-Trevose with the checks from Raff’s Consulting and the bogus documents to meet with undercover agents—who brought duffel bags stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars, which they claimed to be the product of illegal schemes.

After the exchanges were made, Hoopes would allegedly pocket his share of cash, while Waltman and Rafferty waited outside in his car. After all three received their share of the cash, Rafferty would deposit the remaining funds in his business account, the indictment said.

Authorities also accuse the trio of attempting to broker the sale of a Feasterville-Trevose bar to undercover agents, whom they believed would use the bar to launder more cash from fraud and illegal drug-trafficking operations. According to the indictment, the three wanted 10% of the bar’s sale price.

Additionally, the indictment said, the defendants “planned to obtain a sham default judgment in a Bucks County court and then fraudulently enforce the sham default judgment in order to obtain purported funds represented by undercover law enforcement officers to be bank fraud proceeds that had been frozen in an overseas account.”