Philadelphia city treasurer ousted for past fraud charges

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Philadelphia fired Treasurer Christian Dunbar after he was hit with multiple federal charges alleging embezzlement and immigration fraud before he joined the city government.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain accused Dunbar Friday of embezzling $15,000 when he was a wealth manager at Wells Fargo Advisors before he was named Philadelphia’s deputy city treasurer in early 2016. McSwain separately charged Dunbar, a Liberia native, of entering into a “sham” marriage to gain citizenship.

Christian Dunbar was fired as Philadelphia City Treasurer after he was arrested and charged with immigration fraud and embezzlement allegations predating his role with the city.

Dunbar's responsibilities as treasurer included overseeing Philadelphia's bond sales.

Villanova University School of Business professor David Fiorenza said Dunbar's ouster will likely only have a minimal impact on upcoming bond deals since interest rates are so low. Fiorenza said he wouldn’t be surprised, however, to see the city delay its upcoming airport refunding transaction until some more time has passed from the treasurer change.

‘It may have a little bit of an impact on the companies that want to buy the bonds,” Fiorenza said. “They may want to wait until this blows over.”

“The criminal complaint announced Friday does not involve Christian Dunbar’s work with the City of Philadelphia, but in light of the allegations, his employment has been terminated effective immediately,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Friday. “At the same time, I have asked Inspector General Alexander DeSantis to begin a thorough review of the City Treasurer’s Office during the time of Dunbar’s employment as both deputy treasurer and treasurer. This review can help resolve any concerns about the Office’s conduct and transactions during this period.”

Kenney also said Jacqueline Dunn, who has been first deputy city treasurer since July 2019, would serve as acting treasurer in the interim. Dunn has been with the city since 2014 when she was an assistant finance director before her appointment as chief of staff to the director of finance in 2016. She previously was a senior managing consultant at Public Financial Management.

The city will conduct formal search before hiring a permanent city treasurer, according to Kenney spokesman Mike Dunn.

Philadelphia is planning a $395 million revenue bond sale to refinance debt it sold 10 years ago for Philadelphia International Airport. The negotiated deal, which is being led by Barclays, is scheduled for this Wednesday subject to market conditions, Dunn said.

Philadelphia’s general obligation bonds are rated A-minus by Fitch Ratings, A by S&P Global Ratings and A2 by Moody’s Investors Service.

Dunbar was tapped as Philadelphia’s chief fiscal officer in August 2019 following a three-year stint as deputy treasurer under Rasheia R. Johnson, who opted to rejoin her previous firm, Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., as a managing director. Before joining the city in January 2016, Dunbar, a former Temple University football standout, spent five years at Wells Fargo as a financial advisor working with high-net worth individuals, institutions and public entities.

McSwain said that Dunbar stole $15,000 from two different Wells Fargo customers weeks before his appointment as Philadelphia’s deputy city treasurer.

The indictment also accused Dunbar of marrying an unnamed Temple classmate while enrolled as a student at the Philadelphia-based institution to obtain citizenship. McSwain said Dunbar later entered into a second marriage with a woman from Senegal to help her receive citizenship before divorcing his first wife.

“The alleged conduct in this case shows a pattern of deception, dishonesty and criminality that no individual should ever engage in — but is especially alarming and intolerable for a high-ranking city official,” McSwain said in a statement. “City officials whose job is to handle money should not be thieves. And they should not have a track record of engaging in elaborate immigration fraud against the public that they are supposed to serve.”

If convicted, Dunbar faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in prison and a fine of $1.5 million.

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