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Sheriff’s office under investigation for irregularities stemming from real estate sales

6/15/2012 | Real Estate Blog

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green is currently involved in a civil case involving Sheriff’s Office real estate sales. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia is reportedly conducting a probe of the sheriff’s operations, in response to financial irregularities during Green’s time in office.

Green served in the position for 23 years, retiring at the end of 2010. The investigation is based on allegations that Green and his office failed to make payments to thousands of individuals who were owed money from the proceeds of sheriff’s sales.

Under law, they argue, he was required to prepare a distribution schedule for the proceeds, which is supposed to be available for inspection by the Sheriff’s Office. After a Sheriff’s sale, the proceeds are supposed to be used to pay tax bills and creditors. When the properties sell for more than what is owed, the excess is supposed to go back to the former owners. When the previous owners cannot be located, the money should go to the state treasurer, who will periodically attempt to alert citizens as to unclaimed property.

Those who claim to have lost money in the sales have filed a class-action suit accusing the sheriff of failing to comply with the law between 1998 and 2010.

Former acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley is also implicated in the case, as well as the City of Philadelphia. When she took over in 2011, she apparently encountered major accounting problems and had to restructure the office, as well as transfer roughly $40 million in sheriff’s sale proceeds to the state and city treasuries.  The state Treasurer’s Office is now receiving claims from those who lost property at sheriff’s sales prior to 2007 who believe they may be owed some of the proceeds.

A former sheriff’s accounting clerk has already pleaded guilty to writing checks to various businesses with which he shared the proceeds, but Green has not been personally implicated in any of the federal prosecutions thus far.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Former Sheriff Green takes the Fifth in real estate case,” Bob Warner, June 5, 2012