Rocco Martinez thought he could make some quick cash by selling a video of a Philadelphia Parking Authority officer agreeing to dismiss tickets in exchange for bootleg DVDs, according to the city's inspector general and the FBI.
Instead, Martinez was arrested by FBI agents Thursday on a federal indictment accusing him of extorting Vince Fenerty, the Parking Authority's executive director, who set him up in a sting operation in September.
The sting began Sept. 13, when Martinez, 29, allegedly contacted Fenerty by e-mail and phone, saying he had incriminating video of a PPA officer. Fenerty asked for a copy of the video but said Martinez wanted money.
"We tried to get him to turn the tape over, and he wanted to know what was in it for him, and he wanted to get something out of it and was persistent about that," Fenerty said Thursday.
Martinez, of South Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment.
Fenerty told Martinez he would not break the law to get the video, according to Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland and FBI special agent-in-charge George Venizelos, who issued a joint news release Thursday.
Fenerty then contacted the Inspector General's Office, which began investigating along with the FBI.
On Sept. 14, Martinez met Fenerty at an undisclosed location and played the video. Fenerty reminded Martinez that it would be illegal for the PPA to pay him for the video, but Martinez allegedly threatened to sell the video to a TV station or post it on YouTube if Fenerty did not pay him.
Fenerty paid Martinez $500 after some negotiation, leading to his eventual arrest, according to the joint release. It was not clear Thursday why Martinez was not arrested at the time.
Fenerty said he could not answer questions about whether he wore a wire because the case is still under investigation.
He said the video peddled by Martinez was so unclear and muffled that he could not see or hear enough to identify a PPA officer.
Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @miriamhill. Read her blog "Raising Philadelphia" at www.philly.com/raisingphiladelphia.