The paper trail began in 2008, when police searched an auto-body shop in North Philadelphia. They expected to find stolen vehicles, and they did. But they also found something they did not expect. They found stockpiles of building supplies with bills from Home Depot made out to the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Needless to say, the PHA does not officially sanction chop shops, so what were these supplies doing there?
Over the past two years, FBI investigators have taken over the investigation and have carefully examined thousands of Home Depot invoices billed to the PHA. Many of the purchased items cannot be accounted for. The FBI is now looking into what happened to these items, including hardwood flooring and appliances. Were they installed in PHA employees' homes? Or were they simply sold to third parties? Did the third parties know they were receiving stolen property?
Thus far, the FBI is focused on three individuals whose names often appeared on the invoices. One of the suspects was fired from the PHA after being suspected of using stolen building materials to renovate his own home.
Investigations into corruption and theft by swindle can be expansive. The twists and turns of the paper trail can often lead to unexpected destinations. It is quite possible the alleged thieves would not inform the people they are selling stolen goods to that the goods are indeed stolen, but those people can still fall under the umbrella of a large investigation.
It is vitally important to be careful in dealings with the FBI. People who thought they could lie to the FBI have wound up in prison even though they may not have been guilty of the crime that was being investigated. Making false statements to the FBI is a federal felony in of itself.
If you are the target of or are implicated in an FBI investigation, it is critically important to proceed with caution and you may be best served by consulting with an experienced criminal attorney before agreeing to make a statement or answer questions from law enforcement.
Source: The Philadelphia Daily News (Philly.com), FBI investigating major theft ring at PHA; Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, 9/28/2010.