Feds charge former Phila. L&I official with extortion, conspiracy for steering business for favorable treatment

By Jon Campisi | Apr 3, 2014

A man who worked for more than three decades as a high-up official at Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections has been indicted on extortion and other charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia Tuesday announced charges against Dominic Verdi, 58, a city resident who is accused of having used his position as a deputy commissioner at L&I to steer business to a local beer distributor of which he owned a stake.

Federal prosecutors have charged Verdi with both conspiracy and extortion under the Hobbs Act as well as honest services fraud.

The indictment alleges that while working as an L&I higher-up, Verdi, who also served as a member of the Philadelphia Public Nuisance Task Force, used his positions to coerce city bar and restaurant owners to buy beer from Chappy’s Beer, Butts and Betts in exchange for favorable treatment on liquor law violations and other problems.

The indictment also alleges that Verdi lied to investigators with Philadelphia Inspector General’s office to conceal his part ownership in Chappy’s, which is located in South Philadelphia.

Verdi is looking at a maximum possible sentence of 140 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of &1.75 million if he is convicted on the charges.

Both the FBI and the Philadelphia Office of Inspector General worked on the case.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, which noted that Verdi was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Wednesday, reported that Verdi committed his alleged crimes while assigned to the city’s Public Nuisance Task Force, which is a joint law enforcement-regulatory operation that is tasked with going after nuisance bars, brothels and other businesses that have caused quality of life problems in neighborhoods.

The paper further reported that the federal charges against Verdi stem from a series of FBI raids back in 2010 and 2011 that hit Chappy’s, the beer distributor of which Verdi has an owning interest, as well as vehicle towing and salvage companies, gentlemen’s club, and even the Philadelphia Police Department.

According to the Inquirer, Verdi quit his position after 35 years with L&I when the agency threatened to move him from enforcement to administrative duties and cut his salary by more than 40 percent.

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