Three former employees of Philadelphia’s Department of Revenue were charged Thursday by federal prosecutors with soliciting and accepting bribes.
The employees, Jarredd McQueen, Damarys Natal, and Nicole Mixon, were caught in an FBI sting operation, according to charges outlined by federal prosecutors. All three accepted bribes in exchange for erasing fees owed by taxpayers, U.S. Attorney William McSwain and Philadelphia Inspector General Alexander DeSantis said in their announcement.
McQueen, Mixon, and Natal and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.
Investigators allege McQueen and Mixon accessed the city Taxpayer Information Payment System (TIPS), used to track the status of various financial obligations such as real estate taxes, trash fees, and small-business fees, then erased balances in exchange for cash from taxpayers who owed money.
McQueen, 50, allegedly took $9,000 in bribes in connection with his work as a customer collection representative. According to the indictment filed this month, that included erasing a $5,645 trash fee in exchange for a $1,500 cash bribe paid to him by someone who was cooperating with the FBI.
Mixon, 44, is accused of accepting $22,300 in bribes while working as a customer collection representative, according to the indictment, which details exchanges such as allegedly erasing a $1,210 trash fee in return for a $800 cash bribe.
Natal, 56, whose job was to collect delinquent business taxes and other fees, is accused of accepting $26,600 in bribes. In one instance, authorities said she told a taxpayer to bring her two $500 money orders to satisfy an outstanding $10,000 in fees associated with delinquent business taxes on a property. She also instructed that the payee section and memo section be left blank, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She later deposited the money orders into her bank account with the memo section reading “Repair/Remodeling” and “Flooring” and erased the $10,000 debt, investigators said.
“When municipal employees decide to take bribes, they’re openly putting their own interests above those of the city they serve,” said Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The defendants’ alleged actions benefited themselves and those who paid them off, at the expense of Philadelphia’s revenues and its residents.”
All three employees resigned from their city jobs in lieu of termination during the course of the investigation, according to Brian Tom, a spokesperson for the city Office of Inspector General.
“The alleged actions of these individuals are simply unacceptable, but this case is also about the Revenue Department’s commitment to the taxpayers of Philadelphia,” DeSantis said in the statement. “Here, the department’s internal controls flagged irregularities, and they were staunchly committed to the enforcement process from start to finish.”