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FBI Targets City, Legal Offices in Philadelphia

October 17, 2003|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Federal agents raided two city departments and the offices of a lawyer with ties to Mayor John Street on Thursday, nine days after an FBI bug was discovered in the mayor's office.

FBI agents spent hours gathering documents at the downtown offices of Ronald A. White, a lawyer who has raised money for Street, performs legal work for the city and specializes in helping clients win government contracts.

Agents also seized records from the city's finance department and the Board of Pensions and Retirement, according to City Solicitor Nelson Diaz.

FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi declined to comment on the raids or say whether they were related to the bugging.

Addressing reporters several hours after Thursday's searches ended, Street declined to say specifically what information the agents had requested. He said the documents covered a range of city functions.

"Looking at the requests, it is virtually impossible to know what they are looking for," said Street, who has denied any wrongdoing.

White refused to comment as he left his office in the middle of the FBI's search.

Over the last few months, federal agents have requested thousands of pages of records related to city contracts, questioned members of Street's administration and sought information from companies that bid for city work.

The FBI also secretly planted listening devices in Street's City Hall office. Police officers discovered the bugs during a routine security sweep Oct. 7.

Street, a Democrat in the final weeks of an election campaign against Republican Sam Katz, has called the inquiry's timing "suspicious." Justice Department officials deny any political motive.

Agents have also taken records from the city's Minority Business Enterprise Council and searched the offices of a debt collection agency that has done work for the city and whose owner campaigned for Street and was on his transition team in 1999.

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