FEDERAL COURT

Philly Treasurer Fired After Charges He Faked Marriage, Stole Money From Bank Customers

City Treasurer Christian Dunbar was fired after allegations of fraud from before he held the position. But his government work is also under review.

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Philadelphia's city treasurer was fired Friday after federal prosecutors accused him of embezzling money in a former job at Wells Fargo and, separately, entering into fraudulent marriages to get U.S. citizenship.

Christian Dunbar was fired from his position after the city learned he was facing federal charges, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The charges announced Friday only address Dunbar's time before he was city treasurer. But his government tenure is also the subject of an investigation, NBC10 has learned.

In a matter separate from the federal case, a source tells NBC10's Lauren Mayk that the City Controller's office is investigating the city treasury and its management of credit accounts and COVID-19 emergency expenses.

A spokesperson for the controller's office said they were aware of the federal charges but could not comment further.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain said Dunbar, 40, worked at the Wells Fargo Bank in Newtown Square between 2011 and 2016. At multiple points he asked customers to sign blank withdraw slips. The victims believed they were transferring money from one account to another, but Dunbar allegedly withdrew money into his own accounts, according to the charges and McSwain's statement.

Dunbar is accused of taking $10,000 from one victim and $5,000 from another.

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McSwain's office said Dunbar had not yet hired an attorney who could comment on the allegations. NBC10 has not reached Dunbar for comment

In the news conference, the prosecutor called Dunbar "not just a thief who steals money, but a thief who steals United States citizenship."

The much more detailed section of the criminal complaint concerns a "fraudulent marriage scheme" in which Dunbar and his actual romantic partner paired off with two American-born U.S. citizens.

Dunbar and the three other people allegedly involved were students at Temple University from 2000 to 2004, and a former Temple professor officiated the ceremonies in 2006, the complaint says.

Dunbar, a native of Liberia, married "Person #1." Someone referred to as "Person #2" married a woman from Senegal who is now Dunbar's current wife.

Both initial marriages were broken off after Dunbar and his current wife received citizenship, McSwain said.

Temple University did not immediately have a comment Friday. McSwain's office sent out an announcement about the charges around noon.

He said the charges don't focus on Dunbar's work for the city, but that they allege "a pattern" and that the accusations show conduct unbecoming of a city official.

"City officials whose job is to handle money should not be thieves," McSwain said.

A statement from Mayor Jim Kenney said the charges were not connected to Dunbar's work for the city.

“The criminal complaint announced today 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," Kenney said in an emailed statement.

And he ordered Inspector General Alexander DeSantis to investigate the treasurer's office as a precaution. "...This review can help resolve any concerns about the Office’s conduct and transactions during this period,” Kenney said.

The immigration consequences of the charges were unclear. McSwain said more information about the case would come out as it moves toward an indictment, which could be more detailed and could include charges against other people.

"As we've alleged, this wasn't just a one-man thing," McSwain told reporters. "This was something that's at least coordinated."

First Deputy City Treasurer Jacqueline Dunn will lead the city Office of the Treasurer in the interim, the statement said.

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