Former Philadelphia judge charged with theft, conflict of interest

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has been charged with running his personal rental property business out of his judge's chambers at the city's Criminal Justice Center.

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

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the charges Thursday.

Kane said from January 1997 to April 2007, Berry had his secretary help manage his 16 rental properties, which included several multi-unit buildings.

Allegations say the work performed by Berry's secretary during 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 including leases and eviction complaints, appearing at landlord/tenant proceedings, marketing the properties and doing other financial work, including paying bills and making bank deposits.

The secretary told investigators Berry instructed her to do all of 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 to authorities Thursday morning and was expected to be arraigned later in the day.
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