A Philadelphia grand jury has recommended charges against nine current or former city workers in a community cleanup program who allegedly cleaned out homeowners of tens of thousands of dollars worth of possessions.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham this morning described the crew for the city's Community Life Improvement Program, or CLIP, as little more than "home invaders."

"This was organized to be a clean and seal operation, which very rapidly became a clean and steal operation," Abraham told reporters at a news conference and her Center City offices.

Abraham said the investigation by the Philadelphia grand jury showed that between June 2006 and January 2008 the nine CLIP workers and supervisors allegedly looted five houses in Northeast Philadelphia.

The crews allegedly looked for handguns to resell on the illegal market, Abraham said, but also made off with cash, silverware and even pieces of furniture.

All of the five houses - and maybe many more - were occupied by poor or elderly and disabled individuals who met the CLIP definition of being unable to maintain the exterior of their properties.

The city crews were supposed to mow grass, clean up trash and debris and make small repairs such as fixing broken window glass to reduce visible blight in the neighborhoods.

Instead, Abraham said, the crews arrived and, without court orders or other legal authority, broke in or ordered homeowners to leave their properties. In some cases, Abraham said, the homeowners returned to find that the trash the crew was supposed to remove was the only thing left behind.

According to the grand jury presentment, the nine current and city workers charged are Rycharde "Rick" Sicinski, Algie Cuffee Sr. and his son Algie Jr., Henry Turrentine, Anthony Scarcia, Jermaine Adderly, Lamont Williams, William Rolden and Wilfredo Cintron.

Four of the nine had already left the city payroll, Abraham said, and all but one were arrested this morning.

The nine are charged variously with operating a corrupt organization, conspiracy, theft, burglary, receiving stolen property and related charges.