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Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the raid conducted in mid-August confirm that the FBI’s search targeted documents related to real estate transactions within the sheriff’s office dating from January 2011, after Green had left office and Barbara Deeley, his deputy, took over as interim sheriff.
These sources could not confirm whether the search extended past the Deeley administration to the administration of Sheriff Jewell Williams, who took office in January 2012.
But AxisPhilly has confirmed that an employee hired under Deeley and active in the office’s Real Estate division under Williams was one target of the FBI search, and was placed on “administrative leave” shortly following the raid.
According to sources with direct knowledge, Michael J. Riverso, 45, of South Philadelphia, an employee of the Sheriff’s Real Estate division, was one specific target of the FBI search and was placed on “administrative leave” following the raid.
Riverso was hired into the Real Estate Division shortly after Deeley took office, as an “exempt” employee — a position which is essentially appointed by a department head and is exempt from the city’s civil service system. Often, they are patronage employees.
Riverso’s duties appear to have included handling the transfer of properties purchased by bid at sheriff sales to their new owners. His signature appears, along with the signatures of other Sheriff’s Office officials, on most deeds transferring properties.
The Sheriff’s Office has refused repeated requests to comment on any questions about the raid or about Riverso, or what it calls “personnel matters” — including whether Riverso or any other employees have been removed from their positions since the raid; but a sheriff’s office employee confirmed that Riverso remained on administrative leave as recently as two weeks ago.
These findings contradict a narrative, suggested by sheriff’s office spokespersons, that the raid was part of earlier probes into the administration of Green, who resigned nearly three years ago under allegations of financial mismanagement and cronyism.
This narrative dates back to August, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant on the Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff. Reporters that day arrived to the scene to find two spokespersons for the Office waiting outside with a single-page handout to serve as official comment:
The FBI had visited the office, the statement said, as “part of an ongoing investigation begun in the previous administration.” The agents had “the full cooperation of the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia.
While the office offered no clarification of the statement, many assumed that by “previous administration,” the office meant the administration of former Green, who ran the office for over 20 years until he resigned in early 2011.
There were reasons up front to question that narrative: Search warrants are generally served when the target of the search is not expected to be cooperative — and when law enforcement officials believe a danger exists of evidence being destroyed or tampered with.
Most news outlets, picking up from office’s hints that the FBI was digging into Green’s administration, either followed the statement with references to the allegations which drove Green from office or, in one case, simply stated the “previous administration” referred to that of John Green.
Green did, of course, resign amid allegations of financial impropriety, specifically a report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz that questioned how $53 million came to be sitting in a sheriff’s bank account. Green faced severe criticism as well over his office’s ties with two companies owned by personal friend James Davis — Reach Communications and RCS Searchers — which handled the advertising for sheriff sales. On her first day in charge after Green’s resignation, Interim Sheriff Barbara Deeley terminated business relationships with both companies as well as other companies with contracts for real estate-related work.
It’s also true that investigations by federal authorities have lead to multiple indictments and criminal convictions of former Sheriff’s Office employees under the Green administration.
But despite an oft-cited lawsuits by the city against Green and Davis’ companies (Davis first sued the city and Sheriff’s Office himself, in fact, claiming unfair termination and unpaid invoices), it’s been more two years and 10 months since the end of Green’s tenure and the removal of Davis’ companies from the office. So far, none of the criminal indictments have touched either man.
The confirmation that at least one federal investigation is focused on events that transpired after both Green and Davis had left the sheriff’s office raises a new set of questions.
In the coming weeks, AxisPhilly will provide some answers.
This story is part of an ongoing series on the Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff.
Follow Isaiah Thompson on Twitter.