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18 charged with stealing $500k from heating aid program

Eighteen people - 16 of them city or state employees - have been charged with stealing more than $500,000 from a program to provide heating assistance to the poor, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham announced today.

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham announces the arrest of 18 individuals on charges of stealing money from LIHEAP and Crisis Program. Shown with Abraham are, from left, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua, Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland and Philadelphia Police Captain Joseph O'Donnell.
District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham announces the arrest of 18 individuals on charges of stealing money from LIHEAP and Crisis Program. Shown with Abraham are, from left, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua, Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland and Philadelphia Police Captain Joseph O'Donnell.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Eighteen people - 16 of them city or state employees - have been charged with stealing more than $500,000 from a program to provide heating assistance to the poor, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham announced today.

The federally-funded state and city program is known as LIHEAP (pronounced li-heep), for Low Income Heating Assistance Program.

"They call it LIHEAP," Abraham said. "It would have been more accurate to call it a heap of lies."

The scheme, which ran from September 2003 until May 2007, involved a blatant theft of heating assitance money by supervisors who ordered clerical workers to process payments for a cut of the take.

Abraham said the city and state employees got as much $818 each during each heating season and several acquired brand new heating systems worth $3,500 each through the program.

Nine of the 18 were already in custody, a 10th surrenderered today and the rest are expected to surrender or be arrested in the coming days.

The charges grew out of a grand jury investigation.