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August 06, 2020

Ex-Philadelphia Controller's Office employee admits taking bribes for permits, contracts

Jeffrey Blackwell is charged with accepting more $20,000 in bribes; he will be sentenced December

Courts Corruption
office of the city controller Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Jeffrey Blackwell pleaded guilty to corruption charges stemming from payments he received between 2013 and 2015 for permits and contracts while working in the Philadelphia City Controller's Office.

The former employee of Philadelphia's Office of the City Controller pleaded guilty to corruption charges for taking a series bribes and kickbacks that investigators said totalled more than $20,000. 

Jeffrey Blackwell, 47, had worked in the investigative division of the controller's office. He was charged by indictment in September with nine counts of wire fraud, one count of federal bribery, and two counts of filing a false tax return, all occurring between between 2013 and 2015.

Blackwell, who is the grandson of late State Rep. Lucien Blackwell and step-grandson of former City Councilmember Jannie Blackwell, was indicted on federal corruption, fraud, and bribery charges. He admitted that he accepted the bribes from at least five different people who were seeking permits or contracts from the city, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced.

Among the bribes he received, one was from the owner of a furniture store who sought to park a storage container on the street and another from the owner of a construction business seeking a plumbing permit. Blackwell also received money from an auto body shop that was trying to get a contract to apply decals to Philadelphia Police Department vehicles.

Additionally, Blackwell admitted he filed a false tax return in 2012 that lied about travel expenses for his work and falsely claimed to have a dependent. 

"Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly and faithfully," U.S. Attorney William McSwain said. "Blackwell did not meet this standard – instead choosing to use his public position to extort money for himself. Now he will face the consequences."

Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said Blackwell abused his position for his personal gain.

"When offenders, like this one, are held accountable, we're taking an important step toward restoring the public's trust in government and committing to the idea that Philadelphia works for everyone, not just the connected," Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said. "But it is important to underscore that this case is not reflective of all city employees, most of whom are hardworking, do their job with integrity and want to make Philadelphia a better place."

Blackwell faces a maximum sentence of 24 years in federal prison and a $600,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for December.

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