Affidavit of Donald Hersing – FBI undercover informant who exposed widespread police corruption in Philadelphia, including police at the scene on Dec 9, 1981.
DONALD HERSING, being duly sworn, deposes and says:
1. My name is Donald Hersing. From May 1981 through November 1982 I was employed as a confidential source of information (CSI) for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), within an investigation relative to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Police Department, which involved among other things police extortion of payoffs for the purpose of allowing prostitution and other vice-related activities to take place in Philadelphia’s Center City area.
2. In February 1983, based largely on my testimony consequent to my work as a CSI, the Federal Grand Jury indicted former Central Division inspector John DeBenedetto and six other, former officers; John Smith, Abe Schwartz, Vincent McBride, and Larry Molloy, on charges relating to conspiracy, bribery and the extortion of money, and other considerations, to protect prostitution and vice activities. James Carlini, the former Headquarters Inspector in charge of the homicide division, was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” In May 1983 the five indicted men were tried and I was a central prosecution witness against them. All five were convicted. The investigation in which I participated led to further, additional corruption indictments and to the convictions of about two dozen other Philadelphia police officers, including former Deputy Commissioner John Martin, and former Inspector Alphonso Giordano, for corruption during the early 1980s.
3. Before assisting the FBI in Philadelphia in the police corruption investigation, I previously had worked as a private investigator, and had served in an investigative and CSI capacity for law enforcement agencies in other areas, and relative to other matters. I also worked with sophisticated police equipment and was very familiar with sophisticated eavesdropping and countermeasures (de-bugging) equipment. For many years I sold sophisticated eavesdropping and countermeasures equipment to governments in the Caribbean region and in Latin America.
4. In the time frame from 1981 through 1982 I was involved with the FBI in the operation of “modeling studios” at 1245 Vine Street and 2209 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, which were in reality houses of prostitution. I was also involved in the operation of an after-hours club called the “Morning Glory” on 1437 Vine Street in Philadelphia. During the course of the investigation, the FBI set up cameras outside the Morning Glory in order to video all those who entered the club. Central Division police, including Inspector DeBenedetto, his Lieutenant John Smith, vice officers and uniformed officers received monetary payments and other considerations from me for protection of these activities and operations. Central Division police officers also sought and received free sexual favors from the prostitutes. It was known to me that Central Division police collected similar payoffs and received similar considerations throughout the Center City from prostitutes, pimps, and owners of heterosexual and homosexual clubs and bars.
5. In May 1981 I offered to provide services as a CSI to the FBI, with regard to payoffs to Philadelphia police personnel. I began working as an FBI CSI, under the direction of the United States Attorneys Office. Working for the FBI from June 1981 to July 1982, I provided monetary payments and other considerations to various Philadelphia police officers in order to protect the prostitution and other vice activities at the “studios” and after-hours club I operated. With my cooperation, the FBI made audio and video recordings of conversations between myself and corrupt police officers, documenting payoffs which I made to the corrupt police officers. I also provided source information and was debriefed on a frequent and regular basis by FBI agents concerning all aspects of my contacts and communications with Philadelphia police personnel. The primary FBI agents I reported to were Mike Thompson and Andy Lash. Other FBI agents also worked on the case including George Sherwood.
6. During this time frame I further became aware that there were also, at minimum, two other ongoing investigations of Philadelphia police personnel concurrent to the investigation I was involved in, one of which focused on police extortion of payoffs from homosexual, “gay” bars in Philadelphia’s Center City area. The other investigation focused on police extortion of payoffs from video gambling machines in bars and clubs.
7. Inspector John DeBenedetto took over as Commanding Officer of the Central Division of the Philadelphia Police Department on about June 1, 1981. I first met DeBenedetto in August 1981. At that meeting DeBenedetto personally told me that when he took over the Central Division in June he had gathered his officers together and informed them that from that point on all payoff money was to be passed up to him (DeBenedetto) whereupon he would return to each vice squad member a sum of money, about $50. During this conversation, DeBenedetto asked me if I had been making payments to any of his officers. When I informed him that I had been paying $500 a month to a vice officer, George Woods, DeBenedetto became outraged because Woods had not been delivering that money to him (DeBenedetto), and DeBenedetto said he would “take care of” Woods because he (Woods) had been disloyal. A few days later DeBenedetto told me he had demoted Woods to the status of a uniformed officer and had transferred him to another district. I continued making payments to DeBenedetto during the fall of 1981 and the spring of 1982 via his Lieutenant, John Smith. The payments stopped on July 27, 1982 when Lt. Smith came to my apartment and told me that the police personnel would not be doing business with me any more.
8. I was introduced to DeBenedetto through an East Division detective named Abe Schwartz and through the headquarters inspector in charge of the homicide division (and other divisions), James Carlini. I had met Schwartz independently of the FBI investigation, through my personal accountant. I became friendly with Schwartz and provided him with favors of various types, and had the manager of my Vine Street “modeling studio” arrange a private party with prostitutes for Schwartz and his friends, including Carlini. It was Inspector Carlini who vouched for me to DeBenedetto and helped me form my relationship with DeBenedetto.
9. In the course of running my business and my direct contact with Inspector DeBenedetto, I learned that the individual street prostitutes were also run and controlled by the police who demanded money, sexual favors and information from them in order for them to continue to work the streets with less frequent arrests. I heard about a prostitute called Cynthia White, known as Lucky, who worked the street and also went into a rival studio run by a woman named Tracy.
10. Prior to meeting DeBenedetto, during the summer of 1981, I had been making payments of $500 or more per month to a Central Division vice officer named George Woods. Despite my payments to George Woods, he demanded that I allow vice officers to make periodic arrests at the Vine Street studio in order to keep up the appearance of law enforcement. Woods would provide me advance warning of the planned arrests. I would offer a prostitute up to be arrested. Woods further demanded a payment of $75 to speed up the booking of the prostitutes, telling me he would use this money to bribe the booking officer and court personnel to expedite the process and shorten the time the prostitute would spend in jail.
11. Although Philadelphia prosecutors rarely prosecuted prostitutes seriously, the mere fact of the arrest and booking procedure was a serious harassment for the prostitute because it interfered with the prostitute’s ability to make money, having been removed from the opportunity to do so for a period of time. I made payments to the police to speed up the booking process. While the owners of the brothels provided cash protection payments, the individual girls were expected not only to have sex but to provide information about individuals. If individual girls didn’t pay up, they would be run into jail. These women had to pay and when the police needed a human sacrifice for a particular club, they got a human sacrifice.
12. In addition to these regular payments to high-ranking Central Division officials and the vice officers, we also made payments of $75 per week to uniformed Central Division police officers to let the Morning Glory continue serving alcohol after 3:00 a.m., which was the mandatory termination time for the sale of alcohol by state law. Uniformed officers would perform routine “club checks” at the Morning Glory and other after-hours clubs to count the number of people at the clubs. The purpose of collecting this information was to help them determine how much of a payoff they should demand. Officers would also park outside of my Vine Street “modeling studio” to count the number of customers entering the establishment, so they could determine whether business was good or bad. On occasion when I complained to DeBenedetto and other Central Division officers that my business was slow, they informed me that they knew this was not true, because they were surveilling my businesses.
13. Throughout my work as a CSI, the officers who were receiving payoffs expressed concern about possible FBI wiretaps and surveillance regarding their activities. It was clear they suspected that FBI investigations were being conducted. The officers were sometimes reluctant to physically enter my apartment or to discuss the payoffs and related business there, and often insisted on meeting in restaurants or in their own cars in order to conceal their activities. Once, during a meeting with George Woods in June 1981, I mentioned that I had been to a bar called the Waiting Room and Woods got very upset and told me that the “Feds” had the Waiting Room “so f-cking wired it ain’t funny.” Woods told me to stay away from that bar. The police often accused me of talking about their taking of payoff money and other favors. At a meeting with DeBenedetto in March 1982 he accused me of mentioning his name in three city bars and stated I had a “big mouth.” In this same discussion he told me that he was not going to leave messages on my answering machine. On several occasions when the FBI wanted me to wear a recording device (a “wire”) to meetings with Central Division police, I did not do so because I was afraid I would be searched. In fact, I was searched on one occasion by vice Officer Larry Molloy prior to a meeting with Lt. John Smith in March 1982. Present during this meeting also were John Smith and DeBenedetto, and I was physically searched by Smith prior to this March 1982 meeting. It was clear to me I would be in serious physical danger, possibly even killed, if my role as an FBI CSI was revealed.
14. At the beginning of December 1981 the FBI agents instructed me to stop making my monthly payment to the Central Division police. They wanted to step up the investigation to get more evidence directly linking John DeBenedetto to the corruption and were frustrated that DeBenedetto was using a middleman, Lt. John Smith, to pick up the payments. The agents thought that if I stopped making payments it would lure DeBenedetto into approaching me directly and incriminating himself. I was also upset that despite my payments the morals squad had actually made arrests at my “studio.”
15. On about January 13, 1982, Abe Schwartz told me that the problems of the recent arrests stemmed from a recent murder in the center city area. On approximately January 29, 1982, Schwartz told me that he was concerned that the FBI was “tapping” (placing listening devices on) public phones. He told me that two FBI agents had been spotted by police in the vicinity of 19th and Market Streets. Schwartz told me that “everyone” was worried about the federal officers and their investigations.
16. Schwartz asked me to help him conduct a “sweep” (a countermeasure or “debugging” inspection) of the East Division for “bugs.” I went to the East Division headquarters and while there saw a police Inspector named Alphonso Giordano. I knew Giordano personally because he often went to the Morning Glory after-hours club. He was part of a group of police officers who were “all dirty”—engaged in corruption activities. When Giordano saw me at the East Division, he became upset and told Schwartz that he (Schwartz) shouldn’t have brought me there, that “he [I] probably works for the f-cking FBI.”
17. I began making payments to the police again the spring of 1982 after a meeting with DeBenedetto, in which he made very incriminating statements, which the FBI agents and I recorded. In July 1982, Lt. John Smith told me the police wanted to stop doing business with me and I stopped making the payments.
18. I reported all my conversations and activities with Philadelphia police officers during this period of time to the FBI agents who ran the investigation.