Former Philadelphia City Controller’s Office Employee Indicted on Federal Public Corruption Charges
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jeffrey Blackwell, 46, of Philadelphia, PA was charged by Superseding Indictment with honest services wire fraud, federal program bribery, filing a false tax return, and failure to file a tax return. In a news conference today, U.S. Attorney McSwain discussed the charges against the defendant and the commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigating and prosecuting all types of public corruption.
The 13-count Superseding Indictment, unsealed this morning, alleges that the defendant – a former City of Philadelphia employee in the Office of the City Controller – committed a series of frauds, accepting more than $22,000 in bribes and kickbacks from individuals seeking City permits and contracts. Between 2013 and 2015 while serving in the Investigations Division of the Controller’s Office, Blackwell misused his official position to enrich himself by soliciting money in exchange for official actions or the promise of official actions, but rarely provided the promised permits or contracts. These promised services included lucrative city contracts and licenses, permits for home renovation work, and even mundane permits to park a storage container on the street. Blackwell is also charged with one count of federal program bribery for allegedly accepting a bribe to award a contract with the City to install decals on Philadelphia Police vehicles and a license to operate a used car sales business. Finally, the defendant faces charges related to making a false claim on his tax return in 2012, and failing to file federal tax returns in 2014 and 2015.
“Corruption is an insidious crime. It is a cancer that must be attacked and destroyed wherever it is found. It is lethal and can literally suck the life out of an organization, or even a city,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “My Office is committed to the fight against corruption: if you are an elected official, a public official or a public employee and you debase yourself and your position and betray the public through corrupt acts, you will be prosecuted and jailed. And when doing your job, don’t try to walk up to the line between corrupt and honest behavior. Stay far away from that line. Instead, do your job honestly and faithfully every day in every possible way. That is what the public deserves.”
“When government employees seek bribes and kickbacks, they’re blatantly putting their own greed ahead of the interests of the people they serve,” said Christian Zajac, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “As alleged, Blackwell traded on his official position in order to enrich himself. In doing so, he deprived the citizens of Philadelphia of their right to honest services from their city workers. The FBI is committed to investigating public corruption, in order to protect the integrity of government at all levels. We’d ask anyone who may be aware of criminal misconduct by a public official to call our Philadelphia field office, or go to tips.FBI.gov and share the information.”
“This indictment is an important victory for America's taxpayers who play by the rules,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco. “Those Americans who file accurate, honest and timely tax returns can be assured that the government will hold accountable those who don't.”
“This indictment sends a message that you can’t skirt City permitting rules,” said Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland. “The rules ensure that construction work will be done safely and honestly. We were pleased to have played a role in this investigation, and we look forward to working with our law enforcement partners to continue aggressively pursuing anyone who doesn’t play by the rules.”
“The vast majority of city employees are good people who work hard each and every day to improve the city,” said Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. “However, there are a few bad actors who abuse their positions and the public’s trust. We cannot turn a blind eye to those individuals. They must be rooted out and held to account. Today’s announcement sends a clear message that these kinds of egregious actions won’t be tolerated.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of more than thirty years’ imprisonment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service with assistance from the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Ignall. An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.