City workers charged with stealing from homes

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHJIA - December 16, 2009

They were supposed to be cleaning up blight in the Northeast, but an indictment charges nine city workers with cleaning out homeowners, stealing everything they could get their hands on.

"I had nothing. They took all my furniture; they took everything," Loretta Veale of Northeast Philadelphia said.

Veale was ordered from her own home with nothing more than a bottle of pills and the clothes on her back. The city workers then allegedly took all of her furniture and valuables. She spent the next three months in a hotel room.

The family living in another house was tossed out on the street and the city workers allegedly stole $25,000 in cash.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham says the thieves worked for a city agency known as C.L.I.P., Community Life Improvement Program, which is a clean and seal program, but there was little cleaning and a lot of stealing.

"They left every piece of trash they were supposed to clean up and just took the furniture, the silverware, the guns, and the money," D.A. Abraham said.

The workers allegedly stole dozens of guns that were then sold on the street. The thievery came to light only when the guns started showing up at crime scenes. That includes a gun owned by Veale's late husband Clinton. She got the call from the police.

"They said one of Clinton's guns was used in a murder," Veale said.

Dozens of stolen guns are still on the street.

The nine suspects were arrested today, including two supervisors, Rick Sicinski and Henry Turrentine.

Abraham says no one was looking over their shoulders and blasted the former city manager and L & I commissioner for allowing C.L.I.P. to essentially be run as a criminal enterprise.

The thefts occurred during the previous administration.

Mayor Michael Nutter's spokesman says the city is currently investigating those who were in charge and further charges may be coming. In the meantime, five of those charged remain on the city payroll until administrative hearings can be held.

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