Ex-Philly fraud investigator, a sitting councilmember’s grandson, was just indicted for taking bribes

Jeffrey Blackwell was a former employee at the City Controller’s office.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain announces the charges against Jeffrey Blackwell (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

U.S. Attorney William McSwain announces the charges against Jeffrey Blackwell (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated: 2:55 p.m.

The scion of a Philadelphia political dynasty who once investigated fraud for the city has been charged with perpetrating fraud himself. Jeffrey Blackwell took bribes and kickbacks exceeding $22,000 while working as a government employee, federal authorities alleged Thursday.

Blackwell, who is the grandson of late U.S. Rep. Lucien Blackwell and step-grandson of Councilmember Jannie Blackwell, faces multiple counts of wire services fraud, falsifying tax returns and failing to file a proper tax return.

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While working as a fraud investigator in the City Controller’s office, Blackwell, 46, used his political connections to help beef up his side business as a contractor, U.S. Attorney William McSwain said. He then bilked contractors out of money while promising to help them secure business and contracts with the city, which he rarely delivered, according to the feds.

“As a city employee, Blackwell owed a fiduciary duty of honest services to the citizens of Philadelphia,” McSwain said Thursday outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. “This duty must be untainted by illegal money and kickbacks.”

Blackwell resigned from the controller’s office in 2015 after a Fox29 report raised questions about the politco’s sketchy side dealings.

Blackwell faces nine counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of federal program bribery, and two counts of willfully failing to file a tax return, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday.

Reached in City Hall on Thursday, Councilmember Jannie Blackwell said news of the indictment came as a surprise, and that she had not yet spoken with Jeffrey about it.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Blackwell said. “He worked for the city, that’s all I know…He loved politics and he liked his job.”

Federal authorities also say Jeffrey Blackwell knowingly falsified his federal tax returns to fudge his income. He also failed to file a return completely for in both 2014 and 2015 — years during which his side contracting work was allegedly occuring. Blackwell earned an annual salary of about $90,000 while at the Controller’s office.

Former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, Blackwell’s former boss, did not return a request for comment.

Blackwell’s attorney declined to comment at his arraignment on Thursday afternoon. The indicted ex-investigator was released on $40,000 unsecured bail, which restricts him from leaving the Philadelphia region.

WHYY’s Tom MacDonald contributed to this report.

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