A businessman who operated sheriff sales for the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office has been sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for fraud, conspiracy and tax charges.
Defendant James Davis was also ordered to pay $872,400 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $1.71 million in forfeiture, the regional U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on March 1.
Davis’ attorney, Lewis Small, said he and his client were “extremely disappointed” with the sentence and added that an appeal is in the works.
“The citizens of Philadelphia are entitled to the honest services of their public servants, and James Davis’s actions deprived them of that from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office,” said Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “Davis received millions of dollars of business from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, having obtained nearly exclusive control over the operation of the sheriff sales and receiving over $7 million in advertising fees for those sales. The sentence imposed today sends a powerful message to public servants and vendors who choose to do business by their own set of rules.”
Davis was found guilty by a jury after a six-week trial in April. He was convicted on charges of honest services fraud, filing false federal tax returns for 2007, and willful failure to file federal tax returns from 2008 to 2010.
Prosecutors accused Davis of furnishing Philadelphia Sheriff John Green with a “hidden stream of personal benefits” in exchange for Davis and his companies receiving escalating business and fees from the office.
Green was indicted alongside Davis, but a jury acquitted him of three charges and was deadlocked on the remaining two in April. He is set to appear for a retrial late next month.
Prosecutors claimed that in 2002 Davis sold a house to Green for less than it was worth, which he allegedly failed to report on his financial disclosure; employed Green’s wife for nearly $90,000 per year and failed to report it to the city; facilitated over $65,000 in hidden campaign contributions to Green’s 2007 re-election campaign, which went unreported in Green’s campaign reports; did not report paying $148,000 to Green’s campaign; and gave Green $320,000 in gifts and interest-free loans to help him buy a retirement home in Florida.
“There’s an old saying that you have to spend money to make money,” said Michael T. Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Certainly, this is not the way to do it. James Davis brazenly bribed then-Sheriff Green in order to boost his businesses. This illicit quid pro quo deprived Philadelphians of the honest services they expect and deserve from those who hold elected office.”