Two Pennsylvania constables abused their elected positions while working as private security subcontractors for the controversial Mariner East pipeline project, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Kareem Johnson, 47, of Coatesville, and Michael Robel, 58, of Shamokin, were charged with official oppression, Pennsylvania Ethics Act violations, and related offenses.
Johnson is a constable in Coatesville and Robel is a constable in Northumberland County. As state constables, which are elected positions, they have duties that include protecting polling places, serving arrest warrants, transporting criminal defendants for courts, and providing security in courtrooms. They are paid by the courts.
In 2018, Johnson was paid $36,785 by Raven Knights, a Harrisburg company, to work private security in Chester County, the District Attorney’s Office said. Johnson allegedly failed to report the income as required by the Ethics Act.
Robel was paid $27,995 by Raven Knights from 2018 through 2019 to work private security for the Mariner East project, the prosecutors said. He also allegedly failed to report his income under the Ethics Act.
Sunoco Pipeline is building three adjacent pipelines to transport natural gas liquids such as propane across the state from the Marcellus Shale region through Chester County to a terminal in Delaware County, where Sunoco is a major employer.
Lisa Coleman, a spokesperson for Sunoco Pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said in a statement that Johnson and Robel were not employees of Sunoco or Energy Transfer. “They were subcontracted by Raven Knights, who provided security services and personnel,” Coleman said.
Coleman added: “We have a code of conduct for all contractors and third party vendors that clearly states what are acceptable behaviors and business practices, and we expect our contractors and their employees to adhere to that.”
Prosecutors said that Johnson was recorded on video last year by a journalist apparently working for the pipeline project in West Whiteland Township while displaying his constable badge and a shirt with the Pennsylvania seal on it.
Earlier this year, Robel allegedly approached a plainclothes detective in the same area and declared that he was a state constable and was working for “Sunoco.” Robel, who was wearing his constable badge and a belt with a gun, allegedly told the detective to move a legally parked vehicle away from the location.
Johnson and Robel turned themselves in Thursday morning to be processed and were released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Charles Gaza, chief of staff for Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan, said in a statement: “We cannot have elected law enforcement officials hiring themselves out and using their public positions for personal profit.”