Crooked Former District Judge Gets Federal Jail Time
A former Lower Bucks County district judge will end up in the slammer.
At a hearing in federal court in Philadelphia, former District Judge John Waltman, 61, was sentenced to 6½ years in federal prison for a number of crimes, including conspiring to launder money from purported illegal activity and accepting a bribe.
Waltman was sentenced on Monday by federal Judge Gene E.K. Pratter. He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and Hobbs Act Extortion Under Color of Official Right.
Former Lower Southampton Public Safety Director Robert Hoopes, who is also an attorney with a now-suspended law license, and former constable Bernard Rafferty were co-conspirators with the disgraced district judge. They will be sentenced later this week.
“I want to apologize to the citizens of Bucks County and the citizens of Lower Southampton Township,” Waltman said in court, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’ve completely betrayed your trust and you deserved much, much better.”
“The laws of the land apply to everyone – especially to public officials who hold office to serve the public good,” U.S. Attorney McSwain said. “When public servants choose to flout the rule of law, they disgrace themselves and the offices they hold. Every public official should be on notice after today’s sentence: federal law enforcement is watching and we will hold you accountable if you make the wrong choices.”
From 2011 to December 2016, Waltman served as a Magisterial District Judge in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Together with his co-defendants who will both be sentenced later this week, Bernard Rafferty and Robert Hoopes, Waltman participated in a scheme to extort bribes and kickbacks from Bucks County businessmen. They also conspired to launder money for individuals they believed were engaged in narcotics trafficking and health care fraud.
For example, in November 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty accepted a bribe of $1,000, as well as the promise of other fees, in exchange for Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty to use their positions as public officials to “fix” a traffic case before Waltman in Bucks County Magisterial District Court.
In addition, from June 2015 to November 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty conspired to launder funds represented to be proceeds from health care fraud, illegal drug trafficking, and bank fraud. From June 2016 to August 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty laundered $400,000 in cash, represented to be proceeds from health care fraud and illegal drug trafficking, and took money laundering fees totaling $80,000 in cash.
According to a pre-sentencing memo filed by prosecutors, the federal government aimed to lock the former district judge up for nine to 11 years. The U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote that Waltman “betrayed the trust of the citizens of Lower Southampton who elected him and betrayed the robe that he should have been honored to wear.”
Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty were arrested in December 2016 after an investigation that involved state police and special agents from the FBI, IRS, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“A crooked judge trading on his position of trust is beyond disheartening,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division Michael Harpster said in a statement issued Monday. “It’s offensive. At every level, the justice system must operate in a fair and impartial manner. This is exactly the sort of case that deepens the public’s distrust of elected officials and government, which is why the FBI takes public corruption so seriously.”
Hoopes was hired to lead the Lower Southampton Police Department as its civilian public safety director in early 2016. He previously served as a police officer in the township. The Midweek Wire reported in 2016 that the township Board of Supervisors considered Hoopes to be the “perfect candidate” to lead the police department.
Rafferty worked as a deputy constable in the county since 1998.
Waltman wielded enormous political power in Lower Southampton. He formally lead the township’s Republican committee and was known in the lower end of the county as a political power broker.
Former outdoor advertising executive Robert A. DeGoria, former credit union manager Kevin M. Biederman, and former Lower Southampton solicitor Michael Savona, who previously worked as the attorney for Penndel Borough Council, have pleaded guilty to charges related to the investigation.