Feds Charge Former Philadelphia L&I Employee With Attempted Extortion

Authorities say John Wright tried to extort money from a building contractor in 2015.

Photo by Jared Brey

The Licenses & Inspections Department is located in the Municipal Services Building. | Photo by Jared Brey

The United States Attorney’s Office charged former Philadelphia Licenses & Inspections employee John Wright with attempted extortion on Monday.

The charging documents, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, say that as part of Wright’s job as a review specialist, he could give out or withhold “certificates of occupancy.” These certificates are required for new construction and other building changes.

Prosecutors say an unnamed building contractor, who is only referred to as “HF, a/k/a KF” in the documents, made repairs last year to 5520 Whitaker Avenue in the Crescentville neighborhood of Northeast Philly. Wright allegedly “obtained and attempted to obtain” money from the contractor between July and August of 2015, according to law enforcement officials.

Wright has been charged with one count of attempted Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to provide more information about the case beyond what is available in the charging documents.

According to Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney, “John Wright officially separated from the City of Philadelphia on November 11th, 2015. He worked for L&I for 56 months prior to his separation. The department determined that he abandoned his position and he was terminated.” Attempts to reach Wright were unsuccessful.

Kenney was sworn in as mayor in January 2016, after the alleged incident took place.

John Wright’s Charging Documents

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