Grand jury for youth worker?

Mackey
Mackey

Other charges face long-time Street ally

Posted: January 13, 2010

EVER SINCE he was a brash, fast-talking teenager who started an alternative school for youngsters during the 1981 teachers' strike, William H. Mackey has built a career working with children.

A hefty, personable man, whom even critics say has the gift of gab, Mackey spent years connecting with powerful people such as former Mayor John Street, who paved the way for him to run a variety of youth programs.

For years, Mackey, of North Philadelphia, marched against violence and headed the City Wide Youth Leadership Agency - a private organization that received city funds to operate after-school, summer-camp and other programs for youth - often making news headlines.

And even after a string of arrests for crimes that included, rape, indecent assault on a teen, and armed robbery, Mackey until 2008 continued to receive the backing of the politically powerful to work with children and expand into a multimillion dollar real-estate development project.

Mackey was acquitted of rape in 1986 and indecent assault in 2002, but he was convicted in 1991 of felony armed robbery of a gas station, for which he spent a stint in jail.

Now, he faces new legal troubles following his arrests last fall for allegedly cashing a $24,000 check made out to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, leasing copiers billed to the school district for $105,000 and writing $51,000 in bad checks.

He is charged with theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and related offenses for which he's scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Mackey also is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, several sources told the Daily News.

"He's done this his whole life," said Jack Downs, the school district's inspector general, who launched a probe into Mackey's dealings. "He hasn't done a lot of time in jail, but he's been successful at buffaloing people into believing in him."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office would neither confirm nor deny a federal investigation yesterday.

But Mackey, 48, contends that the charges against him are false.

"All that they are giving you is wrong," he said.

He added that when the facts come out, "I will be exonerated."

Although a federal public defender has been appointed to represent him, Mackey said that he was unaware that a federal grand jury may be investigating him.

 

Mackey was arrested on Sept. 24, 2009, and on Oct. 7, 2009, on several theft and bad-check charges.

According to school-district investigators, Mackey leased three Konica Minolta copiers for $105,780 in December 2008 by falsely implying that he was a school-district official.

He "had them delivered to him on the sidewalk in front of the old Wanamaker School," which was closed in 2005, Downs said.

After the delivery truck left the copiers in front of the school, an affidavit alleges that Mackey had them moved to one of his offices, where the district recovered them - "still in boxes" - and returned them to the leasing firm, De Lage Landen Financial Services, of Wayne, Pa.

The $105,780 fee was for a lease of more than $1,760 a month per copier over a five-year period, Downs said.

Mackey said that he signed the lease as director of the City Wide Youth agency and never said that he was a school-district official.

He also disputed that he had the copiers delivered outside the Wanamaker School. He said that they were delivered to trailers that his agency used at a now-vacant lot at 9th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

"How could I send something there [to Wanamaker School], which at the time was closed?" Mackey asked. But the De Lage company apparently thought that Mackey worked for the school district because the company sued the district for nonpayment, Downs said.

"That's how we found out about them," Downs said. "We got sued, and we said, 'What copiers?' "

Downs said that Mackey also faces charges for allegedly cashing a $24,000 check made out to the Urban Affairs coalition, writing some $45,000 in bad checks on a former landlord's checking account and another $6,000 in bad checks to a check-cashing agency.

District officials said that Mackey cashed the Urban Affairs Coalition's check in February 2007.

But Mackey said, "That check was meant for City Wide. We did work for the district for about 10 years."

The Urban Affairs Coalition was the agency that managed city funds that went to Mackey's agency, a city spokesman said. Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the coalition said that its officials have been subpoenaed to testify and cannot comment.

As for the allegations of writing bad checks, Mackey denies them.

Meanwhile, sources familiar with the investigation said that federal authorities have subpoenaed records of a $1 million state grant intended for Mackey's City Wide agency to build a Youth Mini Mall on Girard Avenue near 12th Street.

City Council in 2006 authorized the funding for the mall, meant to house retail space and alternative schools for young adults. "We can neither confirm nor deny a federal investigation," said Patty Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorneys office.

Mara Meehan, Mackey's federal public defender, did not return calls from the Daily News.

"I don't know about any federal investigation," Mackey said in a phone interview. "All I know is that they [federal authorities] have not charged me with anything."

Besides, he said, there's no reason to investigate him.

"That project never got off the ground, and I never received any of that money," Mackey said.

Paul Deegan, senior vice president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which oversaw the program, said that the state terminated the grant before it was awarded.

In 2002, when Mackey was acquitted of indecent assault on a 16-year-old girl, both former mayor Street and Sharmain Matlock-Turner, executive director of the Urban Affairs Coalition, spoke out on Mackey's behalf.

Street called Mackey "a friend and supporter," and Matlock-Turner said she believed that Mackey should "resume his work at Project Reach."

At the time, Mackey's City Wide Youth agency, also known as Project Reach, had received over half a million dollars in city funding, according to published reports.

Doug Oliver, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said that funding for Mackey's agency was pulled in August 2008.

Neither Street nor Matlock-Turner could be reached for comment on Mackey's current legal troubles.

For years, City Wide was located on Girard Avenue near Broad Street. Last July, Mackey's agency was operating out of new offices on Ridge Avenue, near Noble Street. "Right now, we are not operating," he said. "I'm just doing some stuff in the community."

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