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Greene ally accused in whistle-blower suit

Asia Coney - a longtime ally of ousted Philadelphia Housing Authority chief Carl R. Greene - misappropriated thousands of dollars from a nonprofit tenant group she leads, according to allegations contained in a federal whistle-blower lawsuit.

Asia Coney - a longtime ally of ousted Philadelphia Housing Authority chief Carl R. Greene - misappropriated thousands of dollars from a nonprofit tenant group she leads, according to allegations contained in a federal whistle-blower lawsuit.

Vincent Morris, who served as PHA's liaison to Tenant Support Services Inc. until April 2010, charged in a filing on Tuesday that he repeatedly told Greene and other senior PHA officials about the problems he was finding at the nonprofit, but that Coney stayed on the job.

Since October, Coney has received a $6,000 raise - to $108,000 - while still living in PHA housing and driving a PHA-supplied SUV.

In July 2009, Morris charged that Coney and an assistant each took extra payments of $9,998 from the tenant group's payroll fund. In March 2008, he said, Coney "paid herself . . . twice in one pay period" and was eventually compelled to return the money, according to the filing.

Coney said in a statement that she would not comment on the allegations, and Greene's lawyer, Clifford E. Haines, said he was still "evaluating" them.

In September, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia subpoenaed all of Coney's e-mails dating to 2005 as well as her organization's financial records and accounts of employees, dating to 2000.

The filing by Morris offers a window onto the operations of the secretive nonprofit, which gets roughly $500,000 a year in public funding to provide a variety of training and other services for the 81,000 PHA residents.

Morris said that when he told Greene about the double-pay incident, Greene spoke "of his concerns over bad press" and potential problems with an audit.

He said Greene sought to take away Coney's control of the tenant group's payroll, but she refused. Instead, Morris said, Coney was required to sign an agreement to repay the money.

According to the filing, Morris started noticing problems in early 2007, when he discovered that an unnamed Coney aide was dipping into the group's payroll account to pay her mortgage.

"Mr. Morris uncovered this fraud and the next day confronted defendant Coney about the embezzlement scheme," the filing said. "Defendant Coney ignored the plaintiff."

Even the tenant organization's Toys for Tots Christmas program was raided, Morris charged.

He said in the filing that the program had bought high-end toys and that a Coney assistant was taking "some of the Xboxes and or PlayStations and giving them to her son - who was selling them on eBay."

In April 2010, Morris said, he was demoted and his salary of slightly more than $100,000 was reduced by more than $33,000. He resigned the next day, and said he felt he had no choice.

PHA's current administrator, Michael P. Kelly, has hired auditors to review the books of Tenant Support Services and other nonprofits affiliated with the housing agency to determine whether public money is being spent properly.

Kelly took over after Greene was fired in September. The PHA board discharged Greene after discovering $648,000 in secret payments to settle three sex-harassment complaints filed against him by women who had worked for him.

Morris' lawyer, Michael Pileggi, filed the allegations of Coney's misappropriation in response to an April ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson, who said the initial lawsuit lacked detail.

In addition to Coney and Greene, Morris named PHA and the agency's former finance director, Diane Rosenthal, as defendants.

Rosenthal, who was in charge of supervising the tenant group's audits, was accused in the suit of knowing that Coney was "embezzling" money, but failed to take sufficient action, such as notifying police. Her lawyer, Ronald H. Levine, called that charge "baseless."

Similarly, Haines said of the charges against Greene: "There have been a lot of wild claims directed at Carl in the last several months, but few proven facts."

Coney has long been close to Greene. In 1998, Mayor Ed Rendell and John F. Street, who was City Council president at the time, tapped her to join a group that traveled to Detroit to interview Greene - that city's housing commissioner - for the PHA job.

Once Greene arrived in Philadelphia, he appointed Coney - a single mother on welfare - as codirector of Tenant Support Services. She later became the sole leader.

In addition to receiving public money, the nonprofit has obtained money from fund-raising activities that PHA officials organized.

In 2008, for example, PHA asked vendors to donate to the nonprofit for a party the group was throwing in celebration of Greene's 10-year anniversary at the housing authority, according to former employees.

In the past, when reporters have tried to speak with Coney at the organization's headquarters, housed in a PHA building in West Philadelphia, her aides have locked the doors.