Philly treasurer facing fraud charges, U.S. Attorney says

(Getty Images photo)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — City Treasurer Christian Dunbar was fired after he was arrested Friday on multiple federal charges that he bilked his former bank clients out of $15,000 and used a sham marriage to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Christian Dunbar (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said Friday that Dunbar, 40, was arrested early Friday and charged with embezzlement by a bank employee, conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, fraudulent procurement of citizenship, and aiding and abetting, McSwain said.

During a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Center City, McSwain said the charges span from 2006 to 2016 — before the city first hired Dunbar as deputy treasurer in 2016. Dunbar went on to become city treasurer in July 2019, earning $142,000.

Yet McSwain said the allegations against Dunbar raised concerns about his high-ranking position in city government. The federal investigation remains ongoing and he declined to comment on whether the city was cooperating with his office.

“We’ve alleged a long pattern of deception and fraud and dishonesty and poor judgment, and that concerns me a lot that — if we can prove those charges — someone like that was in a position of power in city government,” McSwain said.

Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that the federal charges against Dunbar do not involve Dunbar’s work with the city. Nonetheless, Kenney has asked the city’s inspector general to review the treasurer’s office for the period of Dunbar’s tenure.

“This review can help resolve any concerns about the office’s conduct and transactions during this period,” Kenney said.

First Deputy City Treasurer Jacqueline Dunn will take over as acting treasurer.

Dunbar is a descendant of Harriet Tubman, the noted abolitionist who helped free almost 100 slaves. Of Liberian descent, Dunbar’s maternal grandfather was president of Liberia for nearly three decades.

While working as a financial adviser at Wells Fargo in Newtown Square, Dunbar allegedly tricked one customer out of $10,000, and another out of $5,000.

On two separate occasions in December 2015 and January 2016, Dunbar allegedly directed the first customer to sign several documents, including blank withdrawal slips, to transfer money between the victim’s bank accounts, according to court documents.

In December 2015, Dunbar directed the second customer to sign a blank withdrawal slip while the customer was transferring funds, among other things, according to court documents.

Unbeknownst to both customers, Dunbar allegedly processed the slips for $5,000 each, taking out the cash in mostly $100 bills on three separate occasions and depositing most of the money into his bank account, according to court documents.

Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 21, 2016, Dunbar left Wells Fargo to take a job with the city, according to court documents.

Both victims filed complaints with Wells Fargo over the withdrawals, and a Wells Fargo internal investigation found that Dunbar had allegedly “engaged in suspected embezzlement and was not eligible for rehire,” according to court documents.

The federal charges also allege that Dunbar and his wife, who was referred to as F.N.D. in court documents and was not charged, both entered into sham marriages in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for two individuals, referred to as Person #1 and Person #2 in court papers.

Dunbar was admitted to the United States in January 1988 on a temporary tourist visa and remained in the country unlawfully after the visa expired six months later, according to court documents. F.N.D. was born in Senegal.

Both Dunbar and F.N.D. attended Temple University in the early 2000s. Both reportedly were on a Temple University dance team together, and Dunbar was on the football team.

Person #1 and Person #2 allegedly were fellow Temple students, the latter of whom was on the football team with Dunbar in 2004.

Dunbar and Person #1, and F.N.D. and Person #2, allegedly filed for marriage licenses within a day of one another in November 2006.

Both marriages were performed in December 2006 and the officiant at the weddings was a former Temple University professor, according to court documents.

Based on the marriages, Dunbar and his wife applied for naturalized citizenship. F.N.D. became a naturalized citizen in 2012, Dunbar in 2016, according to court documents.

Dunbar allegedly reported on his U.S. naturalization application, certified under penalty of perjury, that he was living with Person #1 when in fact he was living with F.N.D. for at least a portion of the time, according to court documents.

Dunbar and F.N.D. were married in June 2013 in Senegal and had a daughter together in September 2014, the court documents said.

Dunbar was granted a divorce from Person #1 in March 2017, 14 months after he received U.S. citizenship, according to the documents.

“Because as we’ve alleged, this wasn’t just a one-man thing,” McSwain said. “This was something that was at least coordinated.”

Asked by a reporter about the effect the charges and potential indictment could have on Dunbar’s immigration status, McSwain said, “That remains to be seen.”

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.