Philadelphia Sheriff finds $50 million, will return much to city and state

After a long audit, Philadelphia’s Sheriff is returning millions of dollars to the city and state.  

When Barbara Deeley took over as Sheriff after the resignation of John Green, she fired several civil division employees and reassigned the director who oversees sheriff’s property sales.  After a nine month review, Deeley says auditors found about $50 million.

“The accounting discussed today will result in the transfer of approximately $20 million funds to the city of Philadelphia and the transfer of an additional 20 million dollars in unclaimed funds to the state of Pennsylvania,” said Deeley.

The money has accumulated over years.  Accountant Rick Zayas says before sorting through the records, the team had to fight just to restart the Sheriff’s office computer system.

“The process was tedious, the computer system is old when we first came in it was not fully functional, there were two or three months to work with the city technology people in order to get it into a functional state,” said Zayas.

Deputy Sheriff Joe Vignola says the extra money comes from selling properties for more than the liens and back taxes owed on a parcel and then not being able to find the owner to send a check.

“One of the problems we have in the excess monies due claimants in many instances they are from some form of tax sales they are not owner-occupied and the addresses we have for the owners are no longer good and that’s how it ends up in unclaimed,” said Vignola.

The bigger question is why was almost $50 million sitting in numerous sheriff bank accounts?  Sheriff Deeley says that’s not up to her to find out.

“That’s up to the federal state and local authorities to determine and decipher if anything and who did anything wrong,” said Deeley.

Deeley was appointed to her post and agreed not to run for the job.  A new sheriff will be elected next month.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal