2 state constables face charges for allegedly abusing positions to work on Mariner East pipeline

Jim Melwert
August 09, 2019 - 4:00 pm

Chester County District Attorney's Office

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CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Two Pennsylvania constables have been arrested for working as private security guards on the Mariner East pipelines, where authorities say they illegally used their elected positions for personal profit. 

Michael Robel, 58, of Shamokin, and Kareem Johnson, 47, of Coatesville, have been charged with official oppression, bribery, and ethics laws violations. 

The Chester County District Attorney's Office said during its investigation into construction of the Sunoco pipeline project, it was revealed the two men were hired by a Harrisburg company doing business as the Raven Knights.

Among the allegations, a Chester County detective in street clothes said he was parked near the pipeline in West Whiteland Township back in January, when he said Robel walked up to his car, told him he was constable, showed his badge, and told him he couldn’t park there.

Another time, according to the criminal complaint, a reporter recorded an exchange with a man wearing a polo shirt with the state seal on it. That man, later identified as Johnson, showed the reporter his constable badge and told him if he stepped off the street, he’d be arrested. 

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Charles Gaza, chief of staff for the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, said the actions of the men undermines the office of constable, the badge, and essentially, all law enforcement.

“You can’t have people pretending to be things that they're not when they’re not allowed to, because it makes the entire system questioned,” he said.

Gaza said the constables could have worked private security, but they are not allowed to wear their uniform, badges or their guns, or claim authority they don’t have. He said the two men were paid about $65,000 total, but didn’t report the income as required by state ethics laws.

The company behind the pipelines said the men were not employees of Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners, but instead were hired by a security company. And, they say, they have a code of conduct they expect their contractors and employees to follow.

The investigation of the Mariner East pipeline construction in Chester County is ongoing.

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Editor's note: KYW Newsradio first reported on this story on Aug. 8. Dan Majka contributed to the report.