Former PHA employee charged in scam

Posted: July 12, 2013

A FORMER Philadelphia Housing Authority employee was charged yesterday with conspiracy in connection with a scam to purchase building materials with agency funds, then sell them at a discount to contractors who were renovating private properties.

Richard Lewis, 54, of Philadelphia, conspired to steal about $348,910 in property from PHA from September 2002 to about July 2011, according to prosecutors.

Lewis allegedly directed Richard Perri, a longtime PHA materials coordinator, to fraudulently purchase supplies from Home Depot and Sawbell Lumber, using PHA credit cards, according to the indictment.

Perri, 41, was charged with concocting phony invoices that he submitted to the PHA accounts payable department.

Perri then allegedly arranged for those materials to be delivered to private properties specified by Lewis and two others charged in the case - Jaquel Crews, 41, of Sicklerville, and Mark Miller, 43, of Philadelphia.

Lewis and Perri resold the supplies to Crews and Miller at steep discounts of about 30 to 50 percent, prosecutors said.

Lewis, Crews and Miller attempted to conceal the scam by lying to the PHA Police Department and other law officers, the indictment said.

The investigation began in July 2008 when Philadelphia police raided a North Philadelphia chop shop and found a stockpile of building materials labeled "Home Depot bills made out to PHA."

Authorities grew suspicious when they discovered that some of the high-end construction materials, worth $13,463, were used to renovate a building on Ogontz Avenue near 68th in West Oak Lane.

The building was owned by Miller, a/k/a "Sharkey," who was facing federal charges for cocaine possession with intent to distribute.

Miller told the Daily News in 2010 that he didn't know why the PHA materials were delivered to his property. He declined to discuss the renovations in his building and said "they must have brought it to the wrong address."

The FBI arrested Lewis yesterday. If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Both Crews and Miller are in federal custody. PHA fired Perry in 2008 after uncovering evidence indicating he used some agency materials for his Northeast ranch home.

" @barbaralaker

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