Several traffic court judges in Philadelphia were indicted on federal charges alleging that they developed and maintained an elaborate ticket fixing scheme.
On Thursday, nine former and current judges were indicted on charges of fraud, conspiracy and perjury as well as other charges in what is being described as a pervasive culture of fixing tickets.
"Those who seek to game the system by refusing to follow the rules need to be held accountable by the rule of law they swore to uphold," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement.
The 77-count indictment detailed that the "the ticket fixing was pervasive and frequent," and was thought to have occurred between July 2008 until September 2011.
"For years, even beyond the dates of the conspiracy charged, there existed a culture of ticket fixing at Traffic Court," the indictment added.
Prosecutors allege that the judges used some members of their staff and were thought to have gone out of their way to cover their actions by destroying evidence, using code to hide their activity and using only trusted sources.
Tickets were dealt with in court by being dismissed completely, finding the offender not guilty of the infraction or lessening the initial charge, according to the indictment. Traffic judges are elected to their post and recruit the endorsement of prominent individuals and businesses in the city.
Defense lawyers came out and strongly denied any of their client's wrongdoing and insisted they followed protocol just as they had been instructed. They also added that the judges never took any money to amend parking tickets.
"It's been my experience that any little old lady in the suburbs ... can walk in to her local magistrate judge, and expect to get a reduction in her charge," William J. Brennan, an attorney representing one of the judges, told AP. "I don't think that's fraud. It's just kind of the way it works."
The judges up to 440 years in prison if convicted as well as fines totaling $5.5 million, prosecutors said.