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September 25, 2020

Philadelphia city treasurer fired, charged in fraud schemes

Mayor Kenney says an audit will review if Christian Dunbar committed any crimes involving city money during his tenure

Investigations Fraud
McSwain Dunbar Source/

Federal fraud charges of bank embezzlement and marriage fraud are filed against Philadelphia City Treasurer Christian Dunbar, who was terminated by the city on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020.

Philadelphia City Treasurer Christian Dunbar was charged Friday with bank embezzlement and marriage fraud for alleged schemes dating back to 2006, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Dunbar, 40, was appointed city treasurer in July 2019 and has been managing the city's debt obligations, bank accounts, bills and cash reserves. The crimes he's charged with predate his time as treasure, but officials said Friday that he has been terminated from his job because of the allegations.

"The criminal complaint announced today does not involve Christian Dunbar's work with the City of Philadelphia," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "But in light of the allegations, his employment has been terminated effective immediately. At the same time, I have asked Inspector General Alexander DeSantis to begin a thorough review of the City Treasurer's Office during the time of Dunbar's employment as both Deputy Treasurer and Treasurer. This review can help resolve any concerns about the Office's conduct and transactions during this period."

Federal prosecutors allege that Dunbar's bank embezzlement scheme began between December 2015 and January 2016, just weeks before he was appointed Philadelphia's deputy treasurer. Dunbar was employed at Wells Fargo Bank in Newtown Square, Delaware County, at the time.

According to a criminal complaint, Dunbar stole $15,000 each from two separate bank customers. He allegedly directed the victims to sign several documents related to their requested transfer of funds between accounts. The documents included blank withdrawal slips that Dunbar used to transfer money into his own personal bank account, investigators said.

The complaint also accuses Dunbar, his current wife and two other people of arranging sham marriages in order to gain citizenship for Dunbar and his wife, who are originally from Liberia and Senegal, respectively. The other two people, who attended Temple University with Dunbar and his wife, are U.S. citizens.

In December 2006, within days of each other, Dunbar married one of those individuals from college, and his current wife married the other. The only legitimate couple since those marriages has been Dunbar and his current wife, who married each other in Senegal in 2013, prosecutors said.

On their child's 2014 birth records, Dunbar is listed as the father, his current wife is listed as the mother, and they are listed as married to each other, according to court documents.

Still, Dunbar used his alleged sham marriage from 2012 to 2016 to complete the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. He filed divorce papers to end that marriage two months after he became a citizen.

"The alleged conduct in this case shows a pattern of deception, dishonesty and criminality that no individual should ever engage in – but is especially alarming and intolerable for a high ranking city official," U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said. "City officials whose job is to handle money should not be thieves. And they should not have a track record of engaging in elaborate immigration fraud against the public that they are supposed to serve.

Dunbar is charged with embezzlement by a bank employee, conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, and fraudulent procurement of citizenship. If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years' imprisonment and a fine of $1.5 million.