FBI catches corrupt Philadelphia judge in the act with fake trial

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In a move straight out of ‘Law and Order,’ federal agents put on a fake trial — with a fake suspect — to catch Judge Joseph Waters as he agreed to intervene in a case at the request of a campaign donor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

It was life imitating art.

In a move straight out of TV’s “Law and Order,” FBI agents put on a fake trial — with a pretend suspect — to catch a corrupt judge who agreed to influence the faux case, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Philadelphia Judge Joseph Waters pleaded guilty last week to mail fraud and wire fraud.

“As I understand it, none of it was real,” Waters’ lawyer Michael J. Engle told the Inquirer. “This whole sting was orchestrated.”

According to court documents obtained by the newspaper, a man identified as David P. Khoury was arrested two years ago for carrying an unlicensed gun. Khoury was, in fact, an undercover agent.

The arrest seemed straightforward at the time and prosecutors did not know about the sting, according to the report.

“When I approached the window, I asked him for his information,” Officer John L. Snyder later testified about the bust, according to the newspaper. “I noticed a black handgun on the floor mat area. I asked if he had a license to carry. He said no.”

Following the arrest, a campaign donor who was working with the FBI asked Waters to help Khoury, according to the newspaper. The donor had given Waters $1,000  two years before, the Inquirer reported.

“You run into a problem with any of your people, you get a hold of me,” Waters said, according to documents obtained by the paper. “Anything I can do to help you or anybody that you’re interested in, all you do is pick up the phone and call me.”

According to the newspaper, Waters contacted Judge Dawn Segal, who was hearing the Khoury case. Waters asked the fellow judge to “help him,” according to the plea agreement obtained by the Inquirer.

Records obtained by the Inquirer showed she reduced the charge against Khoury to a misdemeanor. Segal has been taken off the bench pending an investigation, the Inquirer reported.

“She believed that her decision was the correct one,” her lawyer Stuart Haimowitz told the paper. “Whether it was a real case or a fake case, she would have ruled the same way.”

Even though the fake case appeared to reap dividends, they are rare, officials told the Inquirer.

“Depending on the particular circumstances of such operations, relating to the length, sensitivity and the potential danger,” approvals are required from FBI headquarters and the (U.S.) Department of Justice,” Patricia Hartman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia told the paper.

dboroff@nydailynews.com

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