The co-defendant of a suspended Philadelphia Traffic Court judge pled guilty in federal court Wednesday to 37 separate charges related to a scheme to defraud the state Department of Community and Economic Development out of state grant funds awarded to nonprofits.
Lorraine Dispaldo pled guilty to 30 counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of filing false personal income tax returns, and one count of bankruptcy fraud. Dispaldo appears to have pled guilty to all the charges with which she was indicted.
Dispaldo, a former administrative aide to state Representative Bill Keller, D-Philadelphia, was charged along with suspended Traffic Court Judge Robert Mulgrew in allegedly steering to improper purposes much of the $397,000 awarded to Community to Police Communications to purchase communications equipment for the police as well as to protect law enforcement officers by purchasing materials to secure vacant lots and buildings, as well as $460,000 awarded to the Friends of Dickinson Square to maintain the square and the surrounding area.
Over one-fourth of the $397,000 awarded to CPC was used to make improper payments, prosecutors said.
According to federal prosecutors, Dispaldo admitted that she steered tens of thousands of dollars of grant funds to Mulgrew’s relatives and acquaintances and to Keller’s friends, including for “make work” projects as a pretext for paying relatives and associates with grant funds.
Dispaldo also paid $13,000 in CPC funds to Keller’s office cleaner and used $4,600 of CPC funds to pay for her personal cellphone, according to federal prosecutors.
Dispaldo also pled guilty to filing false personal income tax returns for four filing years, and pled guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud for concealing her true income in her 2010 bankruptcy filing.
When Dispaldo filed for bankruptcy in 2010, court records show she reported having $12,250 in assets, $35,573 in liabilities and $3,287 in monthly net income.
“With this guilty plea she is taking the first and positive step to making amends, putting this ordeal behind her and to focus on her family,” said Dispaldo’s attorney, Catherine Recker of Welsh & Recker.
Mulgrew and his wife, Elizabeth Mulgrew, also were charged with seven counts of tax fraud, including allegedly filing false tax returns in which they did not list over $67,000 in additional taxable income and which they listed allegedly false business deductions.
Motions to sever their trials from each other were denied Wednesday.
Robert Mulgrew was the vice president of the FDS at the same time that he was an employee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 98, and later at the same time he was a Traffic Court judge starting in January 2008, according to the indictment.
Dispaldo was the secretary/treasurer of CPC at the same time she was an aide to Keller, the indictment said.
Dispaldo falsified her close-out reports submitted to the DCED, prosecutors said. Dispaldo also submitted duplicate receipts to justify and to cover up the improper expenditures, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is presiding over the case.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray.
In a separate case, Mulgrew also has been charged in a federal prosecution charging Mulgrew and eight other former or current Traffic Court judges with allegedly conspiring to fix tickets.
Mulgrew also was charged with committing perjury before the federal grand jury in the prosecution of the alleged ticket-fixing.