PHILADELPHIA, PA – Mark Williams, 28, of Philadelphia, was sentenced today to 16 years and three months in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy in which a phony arrest was orchestrated in order to steal drugs from a drug dealer. At the time of the crime, Williams was a Philadelphia Police Officer assigned to the 39th District of the Philadelphia Police Department. The theft scheme, orchestrated by then officer Robert Snyder and his wife Chrystal, involved a phony arrest by Williams and another co‑defendant, then officer James Venial. After the phony arrest, the defendants distributed the heroin to a person they thought was a drug dealer and money launderer, but who was actually an undercover Special Agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Williams went to trial and was convicted March 4, 2011 of conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school, distributing and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin, using a telephone in furtherance of a drug conspiracy, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, attempted Hobbs Act robbery, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle ordered eight years of supervised release and a $600 special assessment. Co-defendants Robert and Chrystal Snyder and James Venial pleaded guilty to charges and were sentenced in May. Robert Snyder is serving 157 months in prison; Chrystal Snyder is serving 126 months, and Venial is serving 42 months.
"While this is a sad day, obviously, for law enforcement and particularly the Philadelphia Police Department, it should also be remembered by the citizens of Philadelphia who want the finest police services for their city as a day that signals to all that no stone will be left unturned by the Philadelphia Police Department, DEA and the FBI as we, together, root out those corrupted by greed and who turn a blind eye to tragedies that stem from illicit drug use," said John J. Bryfonski, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Philadelphia Division.
In the second scheme, the defendants attempted to rob someone they believed was a member of the "Mafia," but who in reality was an undercover FBI agent. Co-defendant Angel Ortiz believed that the "Mafia" member routinely collected large amounts of gambling proceeds from individuals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and then delivered those proceeds to be laundered by who they believed was a drug dealer and money launderer, but who in reality was an undercover Special Agent with the DEA. A scheme was developed whereby defendant Williams and Robert Snyder, abused their positions as Philadelphia Police Officers, by planning to have defendant Williams conduct a vehicle stop while defendant Ortiz was in possession of the United States currency and a small amount of narcotics. After finding the narcotics and United States currency, Williams would make it appear as if he was arresting Ortiz and seizing the money and drugs. To ensure that the "Mafia" member believed that the seizure was legitimate police activity, defendant Williams provided Ortiz with a Philadelphia Police Department property receipt.
On June 25, 2010, Williams was placed on restricted duty by the Philadelphia Police Department. As a result, he was not permitted to wear a police uniform, not permitted to carry a weapon on or off duty and was not permitted to take any police action. Additionally, Williams was required to, and did turn in his Police Department-issued weapon. Despite these restrictions, an attempt to commit the robbery took place on July 9, 2010. Williams recruited another person, who drove a vehicle equipped with strobe lights, to pretend to be an undercover police officer to assist in the vehicle stop. Williams then, while off-duty, and on restricted duty, armed himself with his personal handgun, and took, without authorization, a Philadelphia Police Department vehicle from the 39th Police district. After meeting with Ortiz and discussing the final arrangement, Williams and the other person took their positions to await the arrival of the "Mafia" member.
The case was investigated by Philadelphia Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the cooperation and assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Maureen McCartney and Anthony Wzorek.