Indicted Police Inspector To Apply for $65K Per Year Pension
Daniel Castro has been a police officerfor 25 years.
Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix
November 18, 2010
PHILADELPHIA – Daniel Castro, the Philadelphia police inspector indicted this month on federal charges of extortion and bribery, wants to collect a pension from the city while he awaits trial.
The city code allows employees such as Castro to collect pensions unless they have been convicted of certain crimes, even if they have been fired. Castro stands to collect about $65,000 a year, according to Francis Bielli, executive director of the Board of Pensions and Retirement, in estimated monthly payments of $5,463.96.
Castro, 47, was suspended from the department for 30 days with intent to dismiss on Nov. 5, the day of his arrest. He is accused of trying to use threats of violence against a former business partner to recoup $90,000 he lost in a failed Delaware real estate investment. He has pleaded not guilty.
On Tuesday, Castro told the pension board that he is retiring. He is scheduled to meet with the board next month to formally apply for his pension.
Under the city code, pension officials said, Castro will likely get his pension unless he is convicted or pleads guilty.
“We cannot deny someone the right to their pension benefits until there has been a conviction,” said Bielli.
Castro, who worked as a police officer for more than 25 years, drew an annual salary of about $97,000.
His attorney, William Brennan, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. After Castro’s court hearing this month, Brennan said that Castro’s record of service to the city was “exemplary” and that the charges against him were unrelated to his police career.
Castro is not the first city employee to seek a pension while facing criminal charges. In fact, the city’s code has also allowed public employees who are convicted of serious crimes to collect retirement benefits.
Former Police Officer Rosemary DiLacqua, for example, was collecting a pension of $2,489 a month until March, despite pleading guilty in July 2009 to fraud for accepting secret payments and loans while heading the board of Philadelphia Academy Charter School.
Other officers charged with crimes have sought pensions in recent years, among them Kenneth Crockett, charged with theft in July in the theft of $825 from a Northeast bar while on duty. Crockett, who is awaiting trial, began receiving a $3,619.44 monthly service pension last month, according to Bielli.
The city’s code states that retirement benefits can be revoked from those who plead guilty to or are convicted of any of the following: perjury, accepting or offering a bribe, graft or corruption, theft, embezzlement or willful misapplication of city funds, malfeasance in office, or engaging in conspiracy to commit any of the above.
The indictment against Castro indicates that he kept his alleged extortion scheme almost entirely separate from his position as an officer. However, he is accused of using a police computer to look up a license plate number as a favor to a man who was conspiring with him, and accepting a flat-screen television as payment.
If Castro is convicted of any charges, the city’s Inspector General would make a finding of whether the crime fit the criteria to deny him a pension, said Bill Rubin, vice chairman of the pension board. Part of that criteria is whether the crime related directly to his job as a police officer.
Rubin said that the board takes “every precaution” to ensure that anyone convicted of such an offense does not receive a pension.
If the pension board votes to deny someone a pension, the person can appeal to the board, and then to Common Pleas Court, Rubin said.
In June, a Common Pleas Court ruling reversed the pension board’s decision to take $65,439 that former City Councilman Rick Mariano contributed to his own pension over the years.
Mariano, who is serving a sentence in federal prison for public corruption, didn’t dispute that he had forfeited his pension. He opposed the pension board’s decision to use his own contributions to pay for the legal bills the city amassed in representing him. The city is appealing that ruling.