A York Region provincial offences prosecutor has been found guilty of using her public office to fix traffic tickets for her police officer boyfriend.
Caterina (Catherine) Petrolo “intended to act in a way tending to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice,” Judge D.A. Harris wrote in a decision released Friday, finding Petrolo guilty of breach of trust and attempt to obstruct justice in two cases that saw friends of York Region police Const. Richard Senior escape serious consequences for their tickets.
Petrolo, a paralegal, fell onto the police radar during a multi-jurisdictional investigation into police corruption that targeted Senior, with whom she “had a romantic, sexual relationship,” according to Harris’s decision.
One of the cases involved two traffic tickets against a man named Carlton Wills, the father of Fabian Wills of Markham, a longtime friend of Senior.
One ticket was for disobeying a street sign in Markham, the other was in Toronto, for failing to wear a seatbelt; both were dropped after Carlton Wills spoke with Senior about the Markham ticket.
Wills “got the ultimate deal,” Harris wrote. “He paid no fine. He acquired no demerit points. He ended up with no blemish on his driving record. He did not have to hire and pay anyone to accomplish all of this. All he had to do was speak to his friend Richard Senior who then apparently spoke to his friend Ms. Petrolo.”
Petrolo pleaded not guilty. She did not testify in her trial, which took place late last year in a Newmarket court.
Evidence at Petrolo’s trial included intercepted exchanges from the messaging app WhatsApp, including one from around noon on June 1, 2018, which recorded a conversation between Petrolo, Fabian Wills and Richard Senior:
Petrolo: Fabian .. your father’s disobey sign ticket’s gone bye (emoji)
Willis: Well hello
Petrolo: I’m still sweating (emoji)
Willis: Omg. You are too good to me and my pops
Willis: He wants to meet you
Petrolo: Lol he owes me a drink
Willis: No. He owes you a full bottle.
Petrolo: Rich ur tab is getting big
By 1:15 that afternoon, Petrolo had changed the group chat’s subject line to “Wills ticket specialist,” after which the following conversation was intercepted by police:
Petrolo: Drum roll pls ….
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Petrolo: Fabian .. pls tell ur dad his seatbelt ticket was withdrawn
Petrolo: Total saving of 4 points and $350.
“There is compelling evidence, in the form of the intercepted communication, that the charge was withdrawn as a favour to the friend of her friend,” Harris wrote.
Petrolo was also found guilty in a case involving a friend of Senior’s named Nicholas Guarino, who pleaded guilty to disobeying a lane light, which brought a far lower fine than that for his original charge of careless driving. That plea also meant no demerit points, compared to six for a careless driving charge.
The judge noted that although Petrolo did not prosecute that case or speak with Guarino, police intercepted a conversation between Petrolo and Senior in which she told him she had “worked some magic” on the ticket and pressed him to tell his friend to go along with the deal to avoid scrutiny.
“Tell him he better not know me he better not f—ing squawk cause if he squawks they’ll look at the deal right,” Petrolo says.
Petrolo’s lawyers, Alan Gold and Alex Palamarek, argued this was “bravado” in an attempt to ingratiate herself with Senior.
“So why did she arrange for Mr. Guarino to be allowed to enter such a plea?” the judge wrote. “I am satisfied that she did it as a favour to Mr. Senior and to the friend of his friend.”
No date was announced for Petrolo’s sentencing.
At a hearing after her arrest last year, a Law Society tribunal allowed Petrolo to keep her license to practise as a paralegal, with some restrictions, pending the outcome of her case.
Senior was also arrested in the same investigation. In October, he was charged with 30 criminal offences including trafficking cocaine, attempted armed robbery of a quantity of cocaine, assault, obstructing justice and weapons charges.