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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Former Philadelphia Police Sergeant Sentenced for Soliciting Bribes

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that former Philadelphia Police Department Sergeant Brian Smith, 35, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced today to 15 months’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, a $10,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment. U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert imposed the sentence. Smith previously pled guilty to two counts of soliciting a bribe.

According to court papers, Smith joined the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) as an officer in June 2005, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in March 2016. Between December 2015 and November 2016, Smith solicited and accepted weekly bribe payments of $200 from a tow truck operator in exchange for lucrative accident location information.  Smith would obtain this confidential law enforcement information from his PPD mobile data terminal and immediately send it by text messages to the tow truck operator in exchange for the corrupt payments.  Smith also accepted monthly bribe payments of $800 per month from a second tow truck operator for such information.

Smith’s conduct unlawfully circumvented the PPD’s rotational towing policy.  In 2008, the PPD instituted the policy, which requires patrol officers to notify Police Radio of any accident that requires vehicle towing. Police Radio maintains an accurate list of towing companies for an equitable rotation and distribution of towing assignments and calls a tow truck operator directly off the list. The City of Philadelphia instituted this rotational program as a public safety and consumer protection measure to stop wreck-chasing and to prevent accident victims from being taken advantage of by price-gauging tow truck operators.  The program came in response to a series of highly publicized, violent encounters between tow truck operators who competed for the potentially lucrative work of towing cars damaged in accidents.

“Our efforts in this case illustrate that my Office is committed to stamping out corruption wherever it takes place,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “As a Sergeant in the Philadelphia Police Department, Smith repeatedly abused his position of trust. Today’s sentence makes plain that public officials who subvert the rule of law like this to line their own pockets will pay the price—and the only currency we accept will be their freedom.”

"It's grimly ironic, and beyond disappointing, that Brian Smith chose to game a system instituted in the interests of public safety and fair play," said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. "What he saw as an easy way to pad his paycheck on the sly, federal law deems clear corruption. Public servants, particularly in law enforcement, must be held to the highest of ethical standards. Those falling short, like former Sergeant Smith, must be rooted out—and firmly held to account."

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department, Internal Affairs Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle L. Morgan.

Updated June 28, 2018