Former Philadelphia Judge charged with theft, conflict of interest

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For more than 10 years, a former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge allegedly used his judges chambers to run his personal rent property business.

Willis Berry Jr., 72, of Girard Avenue in Philadelphia, is being charged with one felony county each of theft of services and conflict of interest.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the charges on Thursday. Kane said from January 1997 to April 2007, Berry had his secretary help manage his 16 rental properties, including several multi-unit buildings.

According to charging documents, work performed by Berry’s secretary as part of her official work hours included maintaining records, contacting prospective and current residents by phone and in person at the Criminal Justice Center, preparing and filing legal documents and including these leases and eviction complaints, appearing at landlord/tenant proceedings, marketing the properties and doing other financial work, like paring bills and making bank deposits.

The secretary told investigators Berry instructed her to do all these things and that they were considered part of her job. Kane said the total value for diverting his secretary’s salary for Berry’s own personal gain is estimated  to be at least  $110,880 over the 10 year period.

Berry turned himself in to authorities Thursday morning and was expected to be arraigned later in the day.