Ex-city fleet supervisor gets house arrest in theft scheme with reputed mob associate

Robert_Otterson_Web
Robert Otterson, former city Office of Fleet Management team leader.

A former supervisor with the city's Office of Fleet Management was sentenced Friday to six to 23 months of house arrest for his involvement in bilking the city of more than $400,000.

Robert Otterson, 50, of South Philadelphia, was also ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart to pay restitution of $120,000 to the city for his role in the scam.

Otterson, who had served as a Fleet Management team leader at the city's auto-body shop at 11th and Reed Streets in South Philly, helped reputed mob associate Ronald Galati Sr., and Galati's son, Ronald Jr., fraudulently obtain a city contract in 2010 to repair city vehicles even though the Galatis' auto-body shop did not have a required welder.

As a Fleet Management leader, Otterson approved 178 invoices from the Galatis' South Philly shop for city-vehicle repairs that contained 13,442 hours of unperformed labor, which resulted in unwarranted payments of $403,081.

He and the Galatis were among 40 people indicted by a city grand jury in 2014 on charges they participated in a widespread fraud scheme spearheaded by Galati Sr., mostly relating to insurance fraud.

In March, Galati, his son and Otterson were further charged with fleecing $400,000 from the city.

On Sept. 15, Otterson pleaded guilty to bid-rigging, theft and conspiracy.

He also pleaded guilty in a separate case to theft and conspiracy charges for stealing car parts, police strobe lights and Porta-Potties from the city's inventory at 11th and Reed and selling some of the items on Craigslist for his personal benefit.

While searching Otterson's residential property in April 2014, investigators found receipts for purchases made by Otterson, including for a $2,000 watch, new carpets worth $700, new windows worth about $8,000 and a $9,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Otterson was fired from his city job in 2014.

Most of the 40 defendants in the insurance-fraud scheme pleaded guilty. Assistant District Attorney Dawn Holtz said Otterson's cooperation was essential to getting the other pleas. But she also noted he stole from a city in dire need of money. "He did it purely for greed," she said after the hearing.

The judge also ordered Otterson to serve 24 years' probation after his house arrest. Defense attorney Perry de Marco Sr. said the probation would end once Otterson finishes paying his restitution.

"I'm extremely happy with the way this case was resolved and I really do think that Bobby Otterson is a good man in all other respects," de Marco said.

Otterson apologized to the city, the judge and his family.

The Galatis were sentenced Dec. 9 by a different judge. Galati Sr. on Sept. 7 pleaded no contest to charges of corrupt organization, theft and related offenses in the insurance-fraud case and to two counts of attempted murder in which he tried to have a friend, Joseph Rao Sr., and the friend's son, Joseph Jr., killed in October 2013. The shootings never happened.

He was sentenced to 14 years, eight months to 29 years and four months behind bars. Prosecutors agreed that his sentence would be concurrent to a 22-year federal sentence he received in New Jersey in a separate murder-for-hire case in which Galati had tried to have his daughter Tiffany's then-boyfriend, Andrew Tuono, killed on Nov. 30, 2013, in Atlantic City. Tuono, shot three times, survived.

Galati Jr. was sentenced to nine to 23 months of house arrest with 10 years of concurrent probation for his role in the insurance-fraud scheme.

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