Exclusive first look at Sheriff's office audit

PHILADELPHIA - November 10, 2011

Over the last year, the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office has undergone a massive purge. With an investigation into the office underway, Former Sheriff John Green resigned, and numerous employees were fired.

The investigation is now complete, and Action News has obtained a first look at some of what it finds. In short, it says, the office victimized the very people it was supposed to protect.

Tyrone Bynum was seen in a YouTube video showcasing the company he once ran.

According to documents obtained exclusively by Action News, he bought homes at rock bottom prices, rehabbed them, and then sold them at a profit. Here's how he described his business.

"We specialize in real estate. They say life is but a dream; you just got to wake up and live it," says Bynum.

City officials see it another way entirely; his dream a nightmare for others.

"It's really an outrageous abuse of the public's trust," said Alan Butkovitz.

From 2002 until January of this year, Bynum was the Director of Finance at the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office, a position a city investigation has found, he improperly profited from.

Through his role, investigators say, Bynum helped run Sheriff's sales, selling property of distressed homeowners to recover some value for them.

But not only was he selling them, a side business he ran was buying them, and the documents detail, he was profiting in the process; a conflict the controller says is expressly forbidden by state ethics laws.

And that, according to investigators, is just the tip of the iceberg. A corrupt system within the Sheriff's office is saddling already broke homeowners with huge fees enriching others in the process.

"They're the kind of people who are accustomed to getting run over," said Alan Butkovitz. "And the sheriff's office did run over them."

Money earned from a sheriff's sale is supposed to go toward debts of the homeowner.

But in countless cases, officials say, the sheriff's office made little to no effort to give those homeowners what money they managed to raise.

What's more, they say, the office employed so called "finders," whose only job was to track down the evicted homeowners and hand them the check. For that, those finders, some of them alleged to be friends of Sheriff's Office employees, took up to 35% of the total.

The documents show one man, who bragged about his relationships with office workers, made more than $1 million as a finder; that's a million dollars troubled homeowners don't have to pay deep debts, a mere fraction of the money these documents show never made it into the hands of those who needed it most.

"Right now, it's likely that many people will never see a dime of what's entitled to them," said Butkovitz.

The documents show the Sheriff's office barely accounted for any of its financial dealings with respect to these sales.

The web is so tangled, with so much money missing, that further investigations and possible charges could follow.

Action News was unable to contact former Sheriff Green, and lawyers from Tyrone Bynum declined to comment.

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