A federal grand jury indicts a former Philadelphia Licenses and Inspections employee on extortion charges, alleging he bullied a Fishtown property owner to sell to him.

KYW’s Tony Hanson reports Kenneth Gassman, 45, is accused of engaging in a five-year pattern of harassment, vandalism, and abuse of power.

The grand jury alleges Gassman wanted a commercial building situated between two of the properties he owned in Fishtown.  When the commercial property owner turned down two offers to buy, federal prosecutor Rich Barrett says Gassman wouldn’t take no for an answer:

“He used his position by having violations placed on the man’s property.  He also glued shut the doors to the property. He made phone calls to the Philadelphia 311 contact center using aliases and reporting the property was in an unsafe condition.”
And, Barrett says, Gassman removed or defaced “for sale” signs on the property.

Gassman, an L&I inspector, resigned from his city job on Monday. His attorney says Gassman will plead not guilty.

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