Feds charge ex-L&I inspector with extortion

Federal authorities Monday charged a former property inspector with the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections with extorting a bribe from a contractor.

Prosecutors say John Wright, who left the department last year, "obtained or attempted to obtain" cash in July 2015 from a building contractor unnamed in court filings who was working on a property on the 5500 block of Whitaker Avenue in Crescentville.

He is charged with one count of attempted extortion in a thin-on-details criminal information, a charging document typically used when a defendant has already agreed to plead guilty.

Efforts to reach Wright on Tuesday were unsuccessful. His lawyer, Mariana Rossman, did not return calls for comment.

Wright was first hired by the department in 2008, according to city payroll records. He left his job in November, four months after the alleged extortion.

Wright's indictment comes as FBI agents continue to investigate allegations that certain L&I inspectors offered to ease the path to approval of building and demolition permits in exchange for payoffs.

In 2014, prosecutors charged a former L&I deputy commissioner, Dominic Verdi, as part of a $1 million extortion scheme in which he allegedly agreed to help bar owners clear up their regulatory and code enforcement problems if they bought beer from a South Philadelphia distributor in which he held an ownership stake.

Verdi has pleaded not guilty. He is set for trial in November.

jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608 @jeremyrroebuck