Philly police sergeant indicted in tow-truck bribery scheme

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters at 7th and Race streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters at 7th and Race streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Philadelphia police sergeant has been charged with bribery and lying to FBI agents for allegedly tipping tow truck drivers to the location of car crashes in exchange for money, according to a four-count federal indictment unsealed this week.

Brian Smith, a 12-year police veteran assigned to Fishtown’s 26th District, allegedly accepted weekly $200 bribes from one driver from December 2015 to November 2016 and monthly bribes of $800 to $1,000 from a second driver from January through October 2016, according to the indictment. In exchange, he allegedly secretly texted them the addresses of crashes and disabled vehicles.

That violated the police department’s rotational towing policy, which requires patrol officers to notify police radio of wrecks that require towing. City officials adopted the policy in 2008 to discourage wreck-chasing in the cutthroat industry and protect consumers from price-gouging tow companies.

Smith was suspended for 30 days, with intent to dismiss, a police spokesman said.

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He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for bribery, and five years in prison and $250,000 fine for making false statements to investigators, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen’s office.

Smith’s arrest comes two years after Dorian Parsley, an ex-police dispatcher, was sentenced to 14 months in prison in 2014 after pleading guilty to a similar scheme, in which she pocketed $35,000 over nearly three years.

Smith was the second Philadelphia police officer in federal authorities’ crosshairs this week.

Ex-cop Stanley Davis, 50, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to distribution of controlled substances, according to Lappen’s office.

Davis was a Philadelphia police officer last fall, working with the FBI on narcotics investigations, when he encountered two women trying to buy drugs in Kensington. He approached them, allegedly under the guise of getting information about illegal drug activity, and exchanged phone numbers with them, according to Lappen’s office. Instead, he sent them sexually suggestive text messages, entered into sexual relationships with both, and gave each heroin and crack, according to Lappen’s office.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 8.

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