Chester County Judge Michael Cabry charged with using campaign money to feed gambling habit
Oct 8, 2020
WEST GOSHEN — A Chester County district judge is alleged to have used money from his campaign finance account to feed a six-figure gambling habit at various casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, according to a criminal complaint filed against him by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
Magisterial District Judge Michael J. Cabry III, whose district court covers the Honey Brook area in the northwestern part of the county, was arrested Tuesday and charged with one felony count of theft by unlawful taking, a single count of perjury, a misdemeanor, and four violations of campaign finance laws.
Cabry, who has served as a district judge in the county since 2000 and once headed the state’s Special Court Judges Association, was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Martin G. Goch of West Goshen.
A preliminary hearing before Senior Magisterial District Judge Leonard J. Brown of Bucks County has been set for Oct. 26. Goch allowed Cabry to remain free on his own recognizance with no bail, pending the hearing.
“Judge Cabry broke the law and undermined public trust in government by using campaign contributions for his own benefit,”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press release Wednesday announcing the arrest.
“Restricting how campaign money can be used helps prevent corruption. As a candidate and public official, Judge Cabry had a duty to serve with integrity and uphold the law, instead he took advantage of the trust placed in him by supporters and the public.”
The charges arose out of hearings before the state’s 45th Investigating Grand Jury, which issued its presentment in September.
In a criminal complaint filed by Special Agent Paul Dormer of the Attorney General’s Office, Cabry, 59, of West Caln, is alleged to have taken $4,000 in donations to his 2017 re-election campaign and used those funds while on gambling trips to Atlantic City, N.J., Harrisburg, and Dover, Del., among other locations.
The complaint stated that in total, Cabry wagered more than $110,700 in 2017, although because of a large win at Delaware Park of more than $100,000, his total loss for the year was slightly over $9,000.
Still, the complaint filed by Dormer alleges that bank records review in the case show Cabry’s finances were “severely depleted” during the time he was gambling with his campaign money.
“Cabry chose to unlawfully use monies that campaign donors intended to be utilized for his political campaign to fund his personal expenses as he saw fit,” the agent wrote, noting that he had personally interviewed several people associated with Cabry who contributed to his campaign and who were also called to testify before the Grand Jury in August.
That month, when Dormer executed a search warrant at Cabry’s $300,000 house east of Hibernia Park looking for records about his expenses, he found copies of his finance reports and bank records on his dining room table, kitchen countertop, and in the trash can, even though the campaign had ended three years ago.
On Tuesday, Chester County President Judge John Hall signed an order forbidding Cabry from entering the Honey Brook court premises or removing any documents from the offices. He was also told to turn over access badges and office keys, and his cases will be reassigned to other district judges in the county.
In the complaint, Dormer said he reviewed documents from Cabry’s political committee, Citizens for Cabry, from November 2016 into 2017. He said Cabry’s niece, Kristin Wiggins, served as treasurer during that time. Both of them were issued debit cards from a PNC Bank account that had been set up to disperse funds from the campaign committee, although Wiggins’ card was never activated and she is not charged with any wrongdoing.
When Dormer reviewed the campaign reports, he found among multiple donations and expenditures that seemed normal for a political campaign, there were several expenditures that were listed simply as reimbursements to Cabry himself.
No information was included, however, that would provide an explanation justifying the reimbursements, For example, there was an ATM withdrawal of $205 at the Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County, simply listed as “reimbursement for Harrisburg.”
Another expense described as a reimbursement appeared to be an ATM withdrawal of $205 from Harrah’s casino in Chester, Delaware County.
The complaint details numerous similar withdrawals over the time period covered by the expense reports Cabry filed, at the Delaware Park Casino, Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, and the Dover Downs Casino in Delaware.
From June 2017 through September 2017, Cabry did not file any campaign reports whatsoever, although a review of the PNC Bank records showed several debits, including six at the Delaware park Casino in June and July. There were also purchases on that account of groceries, dry cleaners, and restaurants, as well as hotel stays.
According to bank records, Cabry visited Delaware Park at least once a week throughout 2017, and sometimes more.
Cabry was first elected to the bench in 1999, and re-elected in 2005, 2011, and 2017, when he ran unopposed. Judges such as Cabry, who handle preliminary matters in criminal cases, motor vehicle and non-traffic citations, and small claims lawsuits, are paid $93,338 a year in salary.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari. The investigation was conducted in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board.
Frazzled! Frazzled! Frazzled is now in Session. En Banc at https://t.co/3AEdYLyLuY this Monday Morn’ in @CFPB v. All American Check Cashing and the Judge Jerry Smith dissent against rogue Judges Higginbotham/Higginson – vendetta time. https://t.co/XMPqvwZLQ3 @SCOTUSblog @Reuters pic.twitter.com/0nwcV95i0H
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) September 21, 2020