FBI Raids Philly Sheriff’s Office

FBI agents raided the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office at 9:00 a.m. today, serving subpoenas but not making any arrests. The investigation is “focused on unknown real-estate dealings,” 6ABC reports. According to the Business Journal, here’s what one employee posted on his Facebook wall shortly after the raid.

“So I’m at the office and in comes the FBI. They locked the doors unplugged my computer and separated everyone. I was able to take my cell phone with me and I’m currently being quarantined for what reason I do not know.”

We’re still awaiting more details, but in the meantime, it’s worth checking out Isaiah Thompson’s recent reporting on corruption and reform in the Sheriff’s Office, at Axis Philly. Here’s some good background info from a recent piece.

The Sheriff’s Office, like other independently elected county offices, is one of the remaining bastions of patronage in a city with a still-powerful political machine. To control the office is to control jobs and contracts, and to oversee the distribution of millions of dollars, which flow primarily from sheriff sales.

It was this source of revenue around which allegations of mismanagement and fraud hovered in early 2011, when Sheriff John Green resigned from his position, just ahead of an impending forensic audit of his office by the City Controller. That audit was triggered by an earlier report that said that the sheriff couldn’t account for $53 million.

The allegations of wrongdoing grew louder when Deputy Sheriff Deeley, who assumed the role of acting sheriff after Green’s departure, immediately removed four staff members from the office’s real estate division and cut contracts with two companies owned by James Davis — a friend of former sheriff Green and the brother of one of the real estate employees who had been removed. That November, City Controller Alan Butkovitz released the promised forensic audit, which found that Davis’ companies, Reach Communications and RCS Searchers, had effectively taken over the office’s real estate division, overcharging the city by tens of millions in various fees related to sheriff sales.

In April, Nutter filed a civil suit against Green and others for diverting cash from said sheriff sales. It seems logical that the “real estate dealings” the FBI is interested in concern sheriff sales.