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Former Sheriff Green is charged with bribery

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green's two decades in office were plagued by troubling audits and allegations from city and state watchdogs of cronyism, mismanagement, and fraud.

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green
Former Philadelphia Sheriff John GreenRead more

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green's two decades in office were plagued by troubling audits and allegations from city and state watchdogs of cronyism, mismanagement, and fraud.

On Friday, federal authorities added a new wrinkle to the legacy of the retired lawman, accusing him of taking bribes worth six figures from a top campaign donor and friend who was granted a virtual stranglehold over $115 million in Sheriff's Office contracts.

Prosecutors allege that Green, 68, all but handed over the reins of one of the major duties of his office - managing court-ordered sales of foreclosed properties - to advertising and title firms owned by James R. Davis Jr., 65, of Wyncote.

To maintain that lucrative relationship from 2002 to 2010, Davis purportedly plied Green with hidden campaign contributions, a job for Green's wife, and payments on two houses - including more than $320,000 in gifts and loans toward a retirement home near Kissimmee, Fla.

"The indictment alleges a clear quid pro quo," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Grieb said.

Green, who faces charges of conspiracy and honest-services fraud, denied the allegations during a brief court hearing Friday. His lawyer, Peter J. Scuderi, said he had not had time to thoroughly review the indictment.

In fact, Scuderi said, since Green was notified Wednesday that he was about to be charged, his client had spent two days driving up from Florida to turn himself in.

"As of right now, he intends to go to trial and fight these charges," Scuderi said.

Davis, who is also charged in the case, could not be reached for comment.

The charges lodged Friday against both men are only the latest blow to an office beset with lawsuits, FBI raids, and questions about its contracts since Green's time at its helm.

In 2013, the Nutter administration sued Green, Davis, and Davis' company, Reach Communications Specialists Inc., alleging they violated city contracting rules and state ethics laws by diverting millions of dollars from city sheriff's sales.

In court filings, Green and Davis denied those allegations.

That suit came two years after an audit commissioned by City Controller Alan Butkovitz found that Reach and another Davis firm, RCS Searchers Inc., had pocketed at least $6.2 million in excess fees over a six-year period. The audit also questioned the process by which Davis' companies were awarded business with the Sheriff's Office.

Green, who had held his post since 1988, abruptly retired at the end of 2010 - shortly before the report was released.

The 10-count indictment unsealed Friday mirrors many of those allegations, and sheds new light on the relationship between Davis and Green. It says the divisions between the men's political, business, and personal dealings often became hazy.

From at least 2002, Davis was a force in Green's campaigns, allegedly providing more than $200,000 in contributions, labor, and advertising costs - none of which was reported in campaign filings.

He gave Green's wife a job, the charges say, paying her employee placement firm $232,000 over six years to hire for his various businesses.

Davis even helped to pay for the roofs over Green's head, prosecutors said. Before the Florida home purchase, they said, Davis and a now-deceased business partner bought an East Mount Airy property, renovated it for $33,000, and sold it to Green in 2002 for a $12,000 loss.

Davis' financial outlay paid dividends worth millions, prosecutors said.

As city audits have shown, Green steered contracts worth hundreds of thousands per month to Reach, which was hired to place ads in local newspapers advertising sheriff's sales of foreclosed properties - with Davis earning a 15 percent commission.

Over time, Reach took over similar contracts for preparing and recording deeds, handling settlement arrangements, and ensuring that all liabilities on the properties were paid off.

According to the indictment, Green approved an additional $7 million in fees paid to Davis' firm that were not part of those contracts.

Green's former chief of staff, Barbara Deeley, canceled all contracts with Davis' firms soon after succeeding Green in office in 2011.

But the indictment suggests that her decision was not always part of the plan.

Both Deeley and her replacement, current Sheriff Jewell Williams, came into the office promising reforms. But the charges against Green and Davis suggest that Deeley and Williams both coordinated closely with Green to stage-manage his departure while ensuring a line of succession that would protect Davis' contracts with the row office.

Prosecutors have not accused Deeley or Williams of any crime, referring to them in court filings only by their initials. But, according to the documents, Davis allegedly paid for Williams to go to Florida in 2010 to meet with Green and hash out a succession plan.

The indictment alleges that Green, Davis, Deeley, and Williams all agreed that Deeley would take over the office upon Green's retirement, and would protect Davis' contracts. Davis later supported Williams' successful 2011 run for the job.

Deeley - whose daughter Lisa was elected a city commissioner last month - did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

In a statement Friday, Williams said he could not comment, citing the ongoing investigation. He stressed a series of measures he has implemented to "re-instill public trust" in the office since he took over in 2012.

"My goal, and the mission of this office, is to continue to provide professional and quality services the public expects and deserves," Williams said.

Joe Blake, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, declined to answer further questions, including whether Williams had been interviewed by federal investigators. He said Friday's indictment came as a surprise to the Sheriff's Office.

But Butkovitz, the city controller, said he had been expecting these charges for years.

"It's a cliché to say that no one in Philadelphia pays attention to corruption and there's no accountability," he said. "This is a strong rebuttal."



Staff writers Tricia L. Nadolny and Joseph A. Slobodzian contributed to this article.



Years in which prosecutors say James R. Davis Jr. and his companies "developed near-exclusive control" of work connected to sheriff's sales under John D. Green.


Years in which prosecutors say Davis paid Green's wife as a subcontractor.


Total prosecutors say Davis gave in "hidden payments" to Green's 2007 reelection campaign.


Total prosecutors say Davis gave Green in checks, loans, and wire transfers to help Green and his wife buy a Florida home in 2010.


How much of that, prosecutors say, Green disclosed on his annual Statement of Financial Interests for 2010.

$7 million

Approximate total prosecutors say Davis and his companies took in "hidden fees" from the Sheriff's Office between about 2005 and 2010.