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Philly’s indicted former treasurer is facing new charges tied to his role in a medical marijuana start-up

The charges come just months after Christian Dunbar was indicted on charges of obtaining his U.S. citizenship through a sham marriage and embezzling money from his previous job as a financial adviser.

Philadelphia City Treasurer Christian Dunbar
Philadelphia City Treasurer Christian DunbarRead moreCity of Philadelphia

Indicted former Philadelphia Treasurer Christian Dunbar was hit with a new set of federal charges Wednesday — this time accusing him of tax fraud and failing to file personal returns even while he was charged with overseeing the city’s financial health.

Prosecutors said that well after Dunbar, 40, had started working for the city, he claimed deductions for bogus business losses related to a partnership in a medical marijuana firm he was involved in on the side.

In 2015, 2016, and 2019 — the same year he was promoted by Mayor Jim Kenney to run the Treasurer’s Office — Dunbar allegedly failed to file personal tax returns at all.

The new allegations come just months after Kenney booted Dunbar from his city post over a previous indictment charging him with obtaining his U.S. citizenship through a sham marriage and embezzling money in his previous role as a financial adviser.

“Dunbar’s conduct in this case demonstrates a shocking level of misconduct … for a person who held such a senior, cabinet-level position with City of Philadelphia,” said acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams in a statement.

Dunbar’s lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, declined to comment on the new allegations Wednesday. But he has previously noted that the charges his client is facing have nothing to do with his performance in his public role.

Kenney appointed Dunbar to lead the Treasurer’s Office — which oversees the city’s $4 billion investment portfolio and manages city bank accounts, debt obligations, and the issuance of municipal bonds — in 2019, three years after he joined the office as a deputy.

During that time, prosecutors said Wednesday, Dunbar was also hoping to score big in the medical marijuana industry.

He joined the start-up, Philagrow, as a founding partner in 2016. Since he could not afford the required capital contributions, his other partners covered Dunbar’s share of the costs.

But when the business failed within two years — after twice failing to obtain a license from the state Health Department — Dunbar claimed $110,000 in losses despite not having put up anywhere near that amount of cash, investigators said.

That alleged fraud followed trouble at his previous employer, Wells Fargo, where, while working as a financial adviser, Dunbar was accused in 2016 of stealing $15,000 from two clients.

Prosecutors have also alleged that Dunbar — a Liberian immigrant and former captain of the Temple University football team — married a woman in 2009 solely to obtain a green card and then U.S. citizenship. They divorced shortly after his citizenship application was approved.

The Kenney administration has said it was not aware of either the accusations at Wells Fargo or the questions around Dunbar’s citizenship application when it first hired him in 2016.

He has previously pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement and marriage-fraud charges. It was not clear Wednesday how the new tax-fraud counts would affect his Aug. 3 trial date.

If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison on the most serious charge.