‘YOU ARE A THIEF’
EX-UPLAND POL GETS 65 TO 348 MONTHS FOR BORO KICKBACK SCAM
MEDIA COURTHOUSE » Former Upland Borough Council President Ed Mitchell was sentenced Friday to
65 to 348 months in a state correctional facility for a years-long kickback scheme involving the owner of an Eddystone security system company.
“You are a thief,” Common Pleas Court Judge John Capuzzi told Mitchell before imposing sentence. “You stole from the taxpayers under the guise of being Robin Hood, except you were the recipient of the alleged benevolence. You are greedy. You are pompous. You violated your oath of office, you denigrated the position of borough councilman, you defiled the Borough of Upland and you made fools of the electorate.”
Mitchell was convicted following a jury trial in July on 42 of 44 counts, including six counts each of theft by deception and restricted activities, 12 counts of criminal conspiracy and
18 counts of bribery.
He was somewhat ironically acquitted on two counts of intercept communications concerning secret cameras installed in borough offices, the discovery of which led to his downfall.
Mitchell, 76, of Fourth Street, a Republican, served on council for 17 years until his resignation Monday, including eight as president until he was replaced by Christine Peterson in 2016.
Thomas Willard, former owner of Eddystone security system company Logan Technology Solutions, testified at trial that he paid kickbacks to Mitchell over a period of about six years in exchange for securing nobid contracts at borough properties.
“He would make sure that the jobs would go through properly,” said Willard. “We worked out a deal where I would cash the checks and he would get some money from each check from the jobs.”
Investigators found there were more than 275 invoices and payments to Logan totaling $914,000 between October 2009 and December 2015.
Willard entered an open guilty plea to all 82 counts against him prior to Mitchell’s trial and was sentenced Thursday to 23 months of intermediate punishment, largely for his cooperation with the case.
Among the contracts provided to Logan was a $30,300 payment for police dashboard cameras that Willard said he never ordered. Willard said he and Mitchell concocted a story that the equipment had been stolen and that Willard should rebill the borough for more than $15,000 in replacement parts.
Willard and Mitchell were ordered to pay joint restitution of $45,762 to the borough for those bills.
Jurors also heard from numerous borough personnel and Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division Detective Timothy Deery, who recorded an interview with Mitchell while serving a search warrant at his home in August 2016.
“Was there a time when you signed off on … that check knowing you were going to get part of that nut?” Deery asked in that interview.
“Not all the time, but there were times, yes,” replied Mitchell on the tape.
Mitchell estimated it had happened no more than 25 or 30 times over five years in that interview, but said it could be higher. He also said the payments he received were never more than $800.
But one former Logan employee testified that Willard had once directed him to retrieve a $5,000 kickback from a check cashing business and deliver it to Mitchell at his house.
In addition to the kickback scheme, Mitchell was accused of secretly recording fellow council members and others using covert cameras and microphones that Willard placed in the secretary’s office and council chambers, allegedly at Mitchell’s direction. The cameras were discovered by then-mayor and
current borough Manager Michael Ciach in March 2016. Willard testified that Mitchell directed him to install the cameras and microphones, and that Mitchell had remote access to the recording system through his phone.
The discovery of the cameras prompted the CID investigation that eventually resulted in Mitchell’s and Willard’s arrests.
Ciach told the judge Friday that Mitchell was a vindictive man who would go after anything he could to gain leverage over you if you crossed him – including loved ones – and then brag about it afterward.
Capuzzi also heard from borough resident Denise Crawford, who said she had been duped into convincing neighbors that Mitchell was trustworthy and worthy of their vote, as well as current council Vice President Moira Crawford, who said Mitchell had violated his oath to protect and serve the borough.
“Mr. Mitchell lined his pockets with taxpayer monies and while doing so harmed every resident of our borough,” said Moira Crawford, speaking on behalf of council. “The funds that Mr. Mitchell took could have been used for projects within our borough, including, but not limited to, services for senior citizens, our youth, capital improvements, as well as equipment, to name a few.”
Mitchell did not speak pending an appeal on advice of cocounsel John Flannery and William Davis, but his daughter and wife addressed the court.
“My father has made the choice all his life to be the man who gets things done,” said Pamela Mitchell. “He has held me accountable, been brutally honest, expected much and wanted little. He has done nothing but try to make my life, my family’s life, better, and the same can be said with the community he served and the town which he calls home.”
“I’ve never known Ed to take a bribe or do anything illegal that he has been charged with,” said Mitchell’s wife of 49 years, Linda. “While Ed doesn’t attend church as much as I would like, he has been a faithful, loving husband, a great father and a truly good neighbor to our community and school.”
Flannery argued that Mitchell suffers from a host of health problems and that the six years sought by Assistant District Attorney Mary Mann amounted to a life sentence.
Flannery characterized the crimes Mitchell was convicted of as “a blip in the radar” of an otherwise exemplary life, with no prior convictions on his record. He said Mitchell does not live a lavish lifestyle and has resigned his position on council amidst the humiliation of his conviction.
But Mann noted Mitchell had only resigned on Monday – after receiving his monthly stipend last Thursday. She added that that any infirmities he might be suffering from could be addressed by the Department of Corrections and that Mitchell still does not appear to have taken any responsibility for his actions.
“In fact, if you look at the presentence investigation … he claims he didn’t do it,” she said. “He doesn’t care what he did. As he stands here today, I would suggest to you that he still doesn’t care what he did. He didn’t care when he was doing it and he doesn’t care now.”
Mann asked that Capuzzi impose a prison sentence to send a message that this type of behavior cannot be tolerated by elected officials. The judge, who also spent 16 years on Yeadon Borough Council and the Marple Township Board of Commissioners, let Mitchell have it with both barrels before imposing sentence.
“You exhibited total disdain for the mayor, the other members of council, the borough employees and the people of Upland,” Capuzzi said. “Much like a child predator, you slowly groomed these somewhat naïve and trusting persons into thinking you had the best interests of the borough at heart. As a result, council – to its detrimental reliance – abdicated much of its responsibility and oversight. You evolved into a ruthless dictator who took revenge on anyone who had the audacity to question your actions.”
Capuzzi added that he found Mitchell’s denial of receiving kickbacks in the presentence report was “pure baloney” and that he deserved no leniency due to his age or health.
In addition to prison time, Mitchell will serve four years of probation and will refund his monthly stipend for September to the borough. He will be eligible for early release on good time in 54 months.
Flannery asked that his client be allowed to remain on bail pending the appeals process, but the judge denied the motion and ordered Mitchell taken into custody immediately.