PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Ernest Pressley, 42, of Philadelphia, PA, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno to one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and four counts of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, in connection with Pressley’s role in murdering four victims in Philadelphia between 2017 and 2018, all in exchange for money. As part of the guilty plea, the defendant also admitted to his role in the killing of two other victims in 2016 and 2017, and the attempted murder of a woman in 2018. Charging documents and court filings detailing these crimes were unsealed today in connection with the plea hearing.
In late 2018, the Philadelphia Police Department joined with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate Pressley in connection with the murder of a victim known as S.S., who was shot to death in the parking lot of a Philadelphia apartment complex near 7400 Malvern Avenue in the early morning hours of September 1, 2018. The defendant was captured on video surveillance footage near the scene and in footage retrieved from a bar in Philadelphia the evening before, when he was with S.S. and several other men. Pressley was arrested in connection with this crime on September 7, 2018.
The ensuing investigation revealed that Pressley was responsible for other murders in Philadelphia, including the killings of two tow truck drivers who worked for the business A. Bob’s Towing on January 12 and 13, 2017. The defendant agreed to kill a tow truck driver known as K.F. in exchange for money, in order to prevent K.F. from testifying as a witness at an assault trial in Philadelphia. In an effort to distract law enforcement from the true motivation for K.F.’s murder and to make it appear as though it was connected to a feud between rival tow truck companies, Pressley selected at random one of K.F.’s co-workers, a victim known as E.R., and shot him to death as he left work on January 12, 2017, near 4500 Melrose Street. The next day, Pressley approached K.F. as he left his home and entered his tow truck, which was being driven by a co-worker, at which time Pressley opened fire, fatally striking K.F. and injuring his co-worker, who was shot several times in his lower body.
As the investigation developed further, Pressley was also identified as the person who shot a victim known as M.R. to death in Philadelphia on January 11, 2017, near the intersection of East Sharpnack and Baldwin Streets, while M.R. worked on his vehicle at a garage in the area.
During the guilty plea allocution before Judge Robreno earlier today, Pressley admitted that he murdered M.R., E.R., K.F., and S.S., in exchange for money and at the direction of a drug trafficker. Around the time of each crime, Pressley used his cellular phone to communicate with his co-conspirator to plan how and when each murder would be carried out. His use of a cell phone to facilitate each of the killings is a federal offense. Pressley’s conviction by way of his guilty plea carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Further, Pressley admitted to shooting a victim known as C.Y. to death on July 19, 2016, as C.Y. sat on the porch of a residence near 1500 West Olney Avenue in Philadelphia. The defendant also admitted to his role in providing the location of a man he knew was wanted dead by a Philadelphia drug trafficker, which later resulted in the death of a victim known as Y.H., who was killed as the result of mistaken identity near the intersection of 56th Street and Ithan Street on July 24, 2018. Finally, Pressley admitted that he attempted to kill a woman when he shot her in the arm as she arrived at her Philadelphia home on North Woodstock Street on July 9, 2018. While the woman survived a gunshot wound, she later discovered that her home had been ransacked and several items were stolen, including money and jewelry. Several hours later, Pressley was identified as having sold a Rolex watch belonging to the woman at a Philadelphia pawn shop.
“By his own admission, Ernest Pressley is an incredibly dangerous individual with no qualms about accepting money to calculatedly and cold-bloodedly murder anyone,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “With today’s guilty plea and thanks to the dedicated efforts of the investigators on this case, this defendant will now spend the rest of his life behind bars for these heinous crimes.”
“We’ve long known that much of Philadelphia’s violent crime is committed by a discrete group of chronic offenders,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Ernest Pressley is a case in point. Today, he’s admitted to murdering six people and trying to kill a seventh. He’s an obvious menace with zero respect for human life and the city is unequivocally safer with him behind bars. The FBI and Philadelphia Police Department are working in lockstep and bringing all our resources to bear, as we home in on these violent criminals leaving bodies in their wake.”
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Ashenfelter.