PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Behzad Sabagh, a/k/a “Ben Sabagh,” 39, of Philadelphia, PA, was arrested and charged by Indictment with multiple counts of retaliating against a witness and tampering with a witness, stemming from a case in which he was previously convicted of bribing an employee of the City of Philadelphia in April 2019.
As set forth in the Indictment, in May 2018, Sabagh was charged criminally with honest services wire fraud, arising from his payment of bribes to a City of Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office employee. From December 2019 until March 2020, after Sabagh pleaded guilty to the fraud charges and completed his court-ordered sentence, he is alleged to have sent threatening text messages to an individual who was also charged in connection with the prior case and who had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with law enforcement officials as a witness against Sabagh.
According to the Indictment, while the witness was awaiting sentencing, the defendant sent text messages in which he violently threatened the witness with sexual assault while in prison, threatened to sexually assault the witness’s wife while the witness was in prison, and threatened their children. The Indictment charges Sabagh with nine counts of retaliating against a witness and one count of tampering with a witness.
“Witness intimidation undermines the entire criminal justice system and will be dealt with swiftly and severely,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Here, Sabagh allegedly threatened a witness in a most contemptible way, after his conviction and sentence had been served as though his actions would have no consequences. These charges demonstrate that he is absolutely wrong.”
“Our justice system depends on witnesses truthfully testifying as to what they know,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Retaliating against a cooperating witness sends a chilling message both to that person and the community at large. Bottom line: ensuring the safety of federal witnesses both before and after a prosecution is paramount, and the FBI takes Sabagh’s alleged acts extremely seriously.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of up to 200 years in prison, a $2,500,000 fine, a $1,000 special assessment, and restitution.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah L. Grieb and Christopher Diviny.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.