Ex-Chester County Judge Pleads Guilty to Gambling Campaign Funds

Written By Kevin Shelly on September 24, 2021 - Last Updated on August 8, 2022
Former Chester County Judge charged

A former Chester County judge has pleaded guilty to illegally using his campaign funds to gamble at casinos in Pennsylvania including Penn National’s Hollywood Casino in Grantville and Harrah’s Philadelphia. He also gambled at casinos in Delaware and New Jersey.

The criminal complaint against him alleged that in total, Michael Cabry III had wagered more than $110,700 in 2017. But because of a significant win at Delaware Park of more than $100,000, his total loss for that year was only slightly more than $9,000.

Former Chester County judge squandered funds

According to a an Oct. 2020 press release from Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Grand Jury discovered evidence that Cabry used the debit card tied to his campaign account, “Citizens for Cabry,” to make personal purchases. They included a number of withdraws made at casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

The following are the ATM withdraws from casinos:

  • $205 at Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County, PA
  • $205.99 at Harrah’s Casino in Chester County, PA
  • $204.99 at Delaware Park Casino in Wilmington, DE
  • $751.98 in Ventnor, NJ, and Bally’s Casino in Atlantic City, NJ
  • $200 at Dover Downs Casino in Dover, DE
  • A payment of $489.00 at a hotel in Dover, DE, on the same day as the withdrawal at Dover Downs

As a magisterial district judge in the northwest section of Chester County west of Philadelphia, his salary was $93,338 a year.

Judge used campaign funds for personal expenses

In addition to gambling, Cabry used his campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. Those purchases included laundry, groceries, and hotel stays. Cabry was a financial planner before his election as a judge in 2000.

The ex-judge also failed to file campaign finance during the time he was tapping the funds.

PA Attorney General’s statement

According to a statement from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro‘s office, his plea was for theft by unlawful taking and violations of the Election Code.

Shapiro issued a statement:

“The defendant has taken responsibility for his actions that undermined both his authority as a judge and the public’s trust. My office is dedicated to holding public officials who break the law accountable, without fear or favor.”

Charges came nearly a year ago. Cabry handled minor criminal and traffic offenses and oversaw preliminary hearings for felony cases headed to county court as a district judge.

Charges were consolidated from the six he was first hit with last year. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking and three violations of the state election code. The amount he stole is about $4,000.

Lawyer says judge is not a gambling addict

Cabry’s punishment is 12 months of probation as set by Senior Chester County Judge Stephen B. Lieberman.

His lawyer, Dawson Muth, said his client resigned from the bench earlier this week.

The lawyer’s spin after the sentencing was a claim the amount was not $4,000, but between $1,500 and $2,000, and his client is not a gambling addict.

Muth said his client turned to gambling as a form of “escape” during a dark time in his life. The lawyer said his client’s wife was ill and has since died.

“He is deeply regretful for what he did,” Muth told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

PA help for problem gambling

Many resources are available for problem gamblers. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board operates www.ResponsiblePlay.pa.gov. The site provides information on recognizing the warning signs of a gambling problem and finding available treatment options in the state.

Lead image via Dreamstime. 

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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