and Dwight Ott

T. Milton Street Sr., who last week announced his candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia, was handcuffed and jailed for five hours Monday on charges that he ignored traffic tickets in two South Jersey towns.

Street, 67, who is facing trial on federal corruption and tax evasion charges, said he was "totally shocked" by Monday's events, which began when a Moorestown patrolman who knew that his township had a warrant for Street's arrest recognized the former Pennsylvania state representative and hot dog vendor buying a newspaper in a 7-Eleven store.

After posting $3,250 bail, Street was freed from the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly.

With the cold wind whipping his black overcoat, Street strode through the glass doors of the jail and straight toward a mob of photographers and reporters.

He wondered why he had been arrested just days after he announced his candidacy.

"I thought these tickets were paid," he said, adding that the tickets were a decade old and that he "just forgot."

This is not his first traffic trouble. In 1991, while he was a top aide at Traffic Court, he racked up unpaid fines of $2,559 and scoffed, "Why . . . should I pay" when a reporter asked about his record. After he was fired from his job, he assaulted two court officers and complained that his rights had been violated.

He showed some of that same spirit Monday, saying that his mayoral campaign would be unfazed by the trouble.

"Why would I just say I was running if I wasn't?" he asked angrily. "Do you think I just want the publicity?" He said he planned to announce soon a "radically aggressive" solution to Philadelphia's gun problem.

Street was arrested on warrants issued in July 2004 by Moorestown and Pennsauken, charging him with numerous traffic violations and contempt of court for either failing to attend court hearings or failing to pay the fines, said Moorestown Officer Jason Burk. Burk did not know details of the traffic violations.

The courts were closed Monday because of President's Day and no information was available.

Burk, who was aware of the warrant, recognized Street at the convenience store at Lenola Road and Camden Avenue. He and another officer took Street into custody as he was purchasing a newspaper.

"He looked a little shocked and surprised, and said he thought the violations were taken care of," said Burk. "He didn't struggle, fight or resist."

Burk said Theresa Ragunan, whom he called Street's common-law wife, was parked outside. After neither she nor Street could immediately post the bail, Street was taken to the county jail. Ragunan later came up with the money and Street was freed shortly after 3 p.m.

Street's younger brother, Mayor Street, learned of the arrest Monday afternoon, said his spokesman Joe Grace. The mayor had no comment.

Ragunan lives in a house she owns on New Albany Road in Moorestown, an address also listed on the federal indictment that accuses Milton Street of pocketing $2 million in Philadelphia International Airport consulting fees and failing to report the money as income.

Milton Street, in announcing his candidacy on Thursday, insisted that he lives in Philadelphia. He bristled Monday at residency questions. To run for mayor, a candidate must have lived in the city for the last three years.

Street declared: "I sleep in Philadelphia. I vote in Philadelphia. I never owned a home in Jersey. You can follow me home and sit and eat . . . if you don't believe me."

"You guys are so biased," Street told reporters. "The only reason I was arrested in Jersey is because I had tickets in Jersey."

Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Marcia Gelbart and Michael Currie Schaffer contributed to this article.