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Philly Property Investor Who Gamed Sheriff's Sale System Indicted On New Charges


A Philadelphia real estate investor who had already been convicted of bribery in the city's fraught land sales process has been indicted again.

Behzad “Ben” Sabagh has been indicted in federal court on nine charges of retaliating against a witness and one charge of tampering with a witness, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced on Friday. Sabagh had been convicted of honest services wire fraud in August 2019 for bribing a city official for non-public information about properties up for sheriff's sale in Philly, as well as to get extra time on payments.

Sabagh's conviction came from an FBI investigation that started years earlier into accusations of abuse and corruption at the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office regarding the auctions it conducts for tax-delinquent and foreclosed properties. He allegedly sent a series of text messages making violent and graphic threats to another individual who had been charged in the same case, Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in the announcement.

The other individual had already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the investigation as a witness against Sabagh and was awaiting sentencing when Sabagh sent text messages threatening sexual violence against the witness and their wife while the individual was in prison, as well as threats against their children.

“Sabagh allegedly threatened a witness in a most contemptible way, after his conviction and sentence had been served as though his actions would have no consequences,” Williams said in a statement. “These charges demonstrate that he is absolutely wrong.”

The image of Sabagh making violent threats stands in stark contrast to the one presented when he was sentenced in federal court in 2019, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported at the time.

“As a mother, I promise you’re never going to see any of us here [again],” Sabagh’s mother, Ghazaleh James, told U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone according to the Inquirer.

“I do not believe that you will commit a crime,” Beetlestone reportedly told Sabagh in response.

Sabagh declined to comment to Bisnow when reached by phone. The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.