Ex-Philly Officials Charged With Taking Thousands From Parks, HIV/AIDS Benefits

Two brothers involved in parks and recreation and a coordinator for food vouchers were all federally charged with taking funds from their job for personal gain.

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Two Philly brothers and a woman who ran a food voucher program for HIV/AIDS patients were federally charged Thursday, with prosecutors accusing them of taking thousands of dollars from their city jobs for personal gain.

In total, former city officials Leo Dignam and Paul Dignam - and former city contract worker Barbara Conway - allegedly siphoned over $300,000 in separate schemes, with the oldest dating back to 2012. U.S. Attorney William McSwain announced the charges in a news statement.

Leo Dignam, 61, was assistant managing director in the city managing director's office, after serving as deputy commissioner for programs in the city Parks ands Recreation department. He helped arrange events like the Philadelphia Marathon, Broad Street Run and Mummers Parade in his 38-year career.

Between 2012 and 2019, prosecutors say Leo Dignam misused two city bank accounts to pay off personal expenses. With one account supposed to be involved with the nonprofit Junior Baseball Federation - who partnered with the city to raise funds by selling Phillies tickets - Dignam allegedly paid for groceries, gas, online shopping and other purchases for himself and family members.

A separate Parks and Recreation account was used to pay for his Verizon Wireless bill, prosecutors say. McSwain's statement said Leo Dignam gained about $150,000 between the two accounts.

Paul Dignam, 58, oversaw playgrounds and rec centers in the south region of the city and allegedly opened a bank account that appeared to be for community fundraising for park and playground repairs.

From this account, Paul Dignam wrote himself 102 checks worth a total of $119,000, and claimed them as "reimbursements" for personal expenses.

Separately, prosecutors announced a charge against Conway, 61, of Drexel Hill, who worked as a food voucher coordinator through the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation.

Between 2015 and 2019, Conway stole more than $39,000 of food vouchers that were supposed to go to HIV/AIDS patients receiving federal benefits.

Federal court documents say PHMC bought the vouchers in batches worth up to $45,000 at once and then distributed them to hospitals and other agencies dealing with financially struggling HIV/AIDS patients. The vouchers were worth between $25 to $50 each at participating grocery stores.

"In all three cases, the defendants stole money from programs designed to benefit groups that desperately needed the assistance – from patients struggling with HIV/AIDS who require emergency assistance to meet basic necessities to a youth baseball organization serving many underprivileged children," McSwain said in a statement. "The callousness that the defendants displayed by stealing from these programs is stunning.”

The city Office of the Inspector General also worked on the investigation.

“Anyone who misdirects funds away from our local community and into their own pockets will be held accountable to the fullest extent. The City of Philadelphia will not tolerate misappropriation,” Inspector General Alexander DeSantis said in a statement.

The Dignams are charged with fraud and embezzlement. Conway is charged with theft.

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