A Philadelphia city employee was charged yesterday with extortion by illegally accepting money for providing assistance in real estate matters, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Theresa Pinkett, who worked in the City Controller's Office and was a former aide to Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, is accused of illegally receiving payments totaling $5,000 and a cell phone.

While working in Miller's office, Pinkett, 53, provided assistance on real estate issues to an unnamed person, gave the names of other city workers who could assist, and then contacted them, said U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan. Pinkett held the title of constituent services representative.

Pinkett did the same thing from September to December 2006 while employed as a community specialist in the Community Affairs Division of the Controller's Office, Meehan said.

Pinkett, as a city worker, had "the ability to steer people through the bureaucracy of city government," Meehan said.

He said Pinkett received $200 per instance for helping a "guy in real estate, and she would expedite things for him and then steer him in the right direction."

Officials said that Pinkett was not arrested and that she would be scheduled to appear in court within about a month.

If convicted, Pinkett faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years supervised release, and a $250,000 fine, officials said.

Miller was unavailable for comment yesterday. City Controller Alan Butkovitz said that Pinkett was on the payroll as of Friday but no longer worked at the office. It appeared that Pinkett "took money for something she should have done for free," Butkovitz said.

Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.