Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A Shakedown Gone Wrong

My favorite extortionist pleaded guilty today (Monday) to extorting the Philadelphia Parking Authority for $500.

A Shakedown Gone Wrong

My favorite extortionist pleaded guilty today (Monday) to extorting the Philadelphia Parking Authority for $500.

South Philly shakedowner-wanna-be Rocco Martinez, 30, had shot a video in September 2011, using his cell-phone camera, of a hinky-looking interaction between a PPA ticket-writer and a bootleg-movie seller who called himself "The Movie Guy." Rocco said it depicted the PPA ticket-writer cancelling a parking ticket in exchange for two free, bootlegged movies.

Rocco attempted to sell the video to the Daily News, but we don't pay for that kind of stuff. He did let me see the video, though, which was just too blurry and garbled to confirm, unequivocally, that it showed what Roco said it did. When I called the PPA for comment, no one would comment on the video, either. So I didn't pursue using it.

While Rocco was hustling the Daily News for payout, say the feds, he was also hustling PPA executive director Vince Fennerty, threatening to make the embarrassing video public if the PPA didn't slide Rocco some dough. Fennerty contacted the authorites, and Rocco got himself arrested for extortion.

The feds announcement today says that Rocco faces two years in the slammer, a one-year period of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.  It also says that Rocco told Fennerty that the Daily News had offered to pay for the video, which is a crock. We never offered a dime.

I did get a kick out of meeting Rocco, though, who boasted that the video was "Pulitzer material" and would make my career at the Daily News.

Too bad I missed that boat.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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