PHILADELPHIA—Rocco Martinez, 30, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to extortion using interstate communications in connection with an effort to extort Philadelphia’s Parking Authority (PPA). Sentencing is scheduled for December 12, 2012.
On September 13, 2011, Martinez e-mailed the PPA that he had footage of a PPA officer offering to remove a parking ticket in exchange for a gift. The PPA’s Executive Director Vince Fenerty spoke to Martinez and then contacted the Philadelphia Inspector General. In their first conversation, Martinez described the video’s contents, and, when Fenerty requested a copy so he could investigate the allegations, Martinez indicated he wanted money in return. Martinez said that media outlets had offered to pay him for the video. Fenerty repeatedly told Martinez that a government agency could not pay for evidence, because it would be illegal. The conversation eventually ended without any resolution of the matter.
In a follow-up discussion, which was recorded by the FBI, Fenerty confirmed that Martinez wanted something in return for allowing the PPA to view the video. They agreed to meet in person, and Martinez showed Fenerty the video. After some negotiating, Martinez provided Fenerty with the video, allegedly erased it from his laptop’s hard drive, and agreed to stop all communication with the media and postings in exchange for $500 cash.
Martinez faces a maximum possible sentence of two years in prison, one year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek.