Former Philadelphia City Controller’s Office Employee Pleads Guilty to Public Corruption Charges
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jeffrey Blackwell, 47, of Philadelphia, PA, pleaded guilty today to charges of honest services wire fraud, filing a false tax return, and two counts of failure to file a tax return. The defendant was charged by Superseding Indictment in September 2019.
Blackwell, a former City of Philadelphia employee in the Office of the City Controller, committed a series of frauds, accepting more than $20,000 in bribes and kickbacks. 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.
At his plea hearing, he admitted that he solicited bribes from at least five individuals who were seeking permits or contracts from the City. One of these individuals owned a furniture store and paid Blackwell for permits to park a storage container on the street. The second person was renovating a house and paid Blackwell for permits to allow that renovation. The third person owned a construction business and paid Blackwell to obtain a plumbing permit. The fourth person owned an auto body shop and paid Blackwell in the hope of getting a license to buy and sell cars as well as a City contract to install decals on police vehicles. The fifth person, who was cooperating with the FBI at the time, told Blackwell that he needed permits from the City of Philadelphia to renovate a house.
Blackwell also admitted that he filed a false 2012 federal income tax return that falsely deducted travel expenses and falsely claimed a dependent, and he admitted that he failed to file a return as required by law for tax years 2013 and 2014.
“Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly and faithfully. Blackwell did not meet this standard – instead choosing to use his public position to extort money for himself,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Now he will face the consequences. My Office will continue to attack and destroy the cancer of corruption wherever we find it in Philadelphia or elsewhere in the District.”
“Jeffrey Blackwell traded on his official position, seeking bribes in order to pad his pockets,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He put his own interests above those of the people he served, depriving Philadelphians of their right to honest services from city workers. The FBI is committed to protecting the integrity of government at all levels from the plunder of public corruption.”
“Mr. Blackwell had a duty to report all of his income to the IRS and to pay the correct tax on that income,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso. “Mr. Blackwell’s decision to shirk this duty undermines public confidence in our tax system. His admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility is a reminder that no one is above the law.”
“This case is one of a bad actor who abused his position and took advantage of the system for his own personal gain. When offenders, like this one, are held accountable, we’re taking an important step toward restoring the public’s trust in government and committing to the idea that Philadelphia works for everyone, not just the connected,” said Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. “But it is important to underscore that this case is not reflective of all city employees, most of whom are hardworking, do their job with integrity and want to make Philadelphia a better place.”
The defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 24 years’ imprisonment, a three-year period of supervised release, $600,000 fine, and a $225 special assessment. United States District Judge Chad F. Kenney set sentencing for December 2020.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service with assistance from the Philadelphia Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David J. Ignall.