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Press Release

Former SEPTA Video Surveillance Manager Sentenced to 37 Months for Extensive Bribery and Extortion Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that James Stevens, 71, of Somerdale, NJ, was sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Gerald J. Pappert to 37 months in prison for a bribery and extortion scheme that traded on his role as the Director of the Video Surveillance Unit at the Southeastern Regional Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

In November of 2022, Stevens and Robert Welsh, 60, of Tempe, Arizona, were charged by indictment with conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and fraud charges related to the scheme, in which Stevens demanded from Welsh, owner and operator of Spector Logistics, Inc., a stream of financial and other benefits. In exchange, Stevens helped grow Welsh’s business with SEPTA, for which the firm installed, maintained, and supplied video surveillance equipment

The benefits Welsh provided to Stevens included tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments, as well as donations to an alleged charity that Stevens pocketed, lodging and meals during the 2015 Papal Visit, frequent meals and drinks, tickets to Barbra Streisand and Billy Joel concerts, and funds for SEPTA annual holiday parties. As Stevens demanded, Welsh also offered Stevens future employment with Spector when Stevens retired from SEPTA.

During the time of this corrupt relationship, Spector maintained and obtained millions of dollars in contracts with SEPTA. Stevens played a significant role in facilitating and approving contracts for Spector and Blue Zebra, a second company Welsh owned and established with Stevens’ assistance. Stevens helped Spector win bids by giving Welsh inside information about SEPTA’s financial analyses and otherwise collaborating with Welsh in the contracting process. In doing so, Stevens provided an unfair advantage to Welsh and a disadvantage to other potential vendors.

Stevens and Welsh pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme in January 2024 and August 2023, respectively. Welsh is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18, 2024.

"Stevens’ sentence serves as a warning to those who abuse the public’s trust in its government officials," said U.S. Attorney Romero.  "The hundreds of thousands of daily commuters who count on SEPTA, as well as honest vendors who compete fairly for its contracts, deserve public employees who carry out their duties with integrity, without manipulating the system for personal gain.  The U.S. Attorney's Office in partnership with the FBI will continue to fight fraud and corruption."

“Mr. Stevens used his position in maintaining safety on our region’s transit system to secure a myriad of benefits, which he received in exchange for providing his co-conspirator with millions of dollars’ worth of SEPTA contracts,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Philadelphia. “We at the FBI, with our partners at the US Attorney’s Office, will continue to root out pay-to-play schemes that harm the public’s trust in our systems.” 

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Louis D. Lappen and John J. Boscia.

Updated June 24, 2024

Public Corruption