PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia police officer was charged with two counts of bribery and other charges in connection with an alleged deal to send tow truck operators to accident scenes.
The U.S. Attorney's office announced Thursday that Sgt. Brian Smith alerted tow truck drivers to accident locations, using confidential police information. Prosecutors say Smith violated department policy and accepted weekly bribes in return for the accident information.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Police Department instituted a policy in which police radio would notify towing companies about accidents on a rotating basis. The goal of the policy was to prevent tow truck operators from responding on their own to accidents, a practice that led to violent confrontations between competing tow truck operators, that some called Tow Truck Wars.
VIDEO: Tow truck Wars
In 2010, Action News reported that Philadelphia Police went so far as to limit communications about accident scenes to laptop computers, in order to keep tow truck drivers from hearing the information over police radio frequencies.
VIDEO: Tow Truck Wars
Despite those efforts, Action News Investigative Reporter Chad Pradelli reported this week that he has learned that there is grand jury investigation underway into aggressive towing in the city. See Chad's report here.
There is no indication that Sgt. Smith's arrest is directly related to that investigation.
In addition to the bribery charges, Smith is charged with two counts of making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a total of $500,000 in fines for all charges.