PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A man hired to investigate fraud in Philadelphia is now facing charges for doing just that. On Thursday, former city employee Jeffrey Blackwell was arraigned on 13 federal corruption charges.
Blackwell is the step-grandson of current City Councilmember Jannie Blackwell, who has Philadelphia since 1992.
Blackwell worked in the Controller’s Officer Investigations Division from 2013 to 2015. During that time, he’s accused of conducting fraud, bribery and tax evasion.
Blackwell pleaded not guilty during his arraignment. As he walked out of federal court after posting bail, the only thing he said was “no comment.”
Eyewitness News cameras were rolling as the 46 year old faced a judge on 13 federal corruption charges tied to bribery, false tax returns and wire fraud.
Councilwoman Blackwell says she last spoke with her step-grandson a couple of weeks ago.
“Oh, I’m sad. How would you think I would feel? I’m very sorry to hear about this and very saddened by it. That’s all I can say and all I know,” she said.
According to the indictment, Jeffrey Blackwell worked in community affairs in the Controller’s Office until transferring to the Investigations Division and worked there from 2013 to 2015.
That division is responsible for conducting investigations into fraud, waste and corruption throughout the city.
The indictment alleges that while a city employee, Blackwell did not just investigate fraud, but he accepted more than $22,000 in bribes and kickbacks from individuals seeking city permits and contracts.
He is also accused of exchanging lucrative city contracts, licenses and permits for home renovation work, and permits to park a storage container on the street.
“When government personnel see bribes and kickbacks, they’re blatantly putting their own greed ahead of the interest of the people they serve,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge Christian Zajac.
In a press conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart says all employees in her office who may have worked with Blackwell had to reapply for their jobs when she took over in January of 2018. Only some were brought back.
“The city charter says that the controller is supposed to investigate fraud waste and abuse. I wanted to have professional, experienced investigators on that team and the people that weren’t kept just did not pass that regard,” Rhynhart said.
Blackwell was released on $40,000 own recognizance. He’s not allowed to leave the Philadelphia area.