Former Philadelphia City Treasurer Christian Dunbar pleaded guilty to a scheme to obtain citizenship by submitting multiple false statements and documents, as well as failing to file his federal income tax returns, U.S. prosecutors said on Thursday.
Dunbar, 42, was appointed city treasurer in July 2019 and remained in his position managing the city’s debt obligations and bank accounts until he was terminated in September 2020 after being charged with fraud. At the time, Mayor Jim Kenney said that the charges were not related to his work in city government, and ordered an audit of the Treasury Department which found no evidence of fraud.
In September 2020, Dunbar was charged in a 14-count indictment alleging embezzlement by a bank employee, procurement of naturalization through a false statement, procurement of naturalization unlawfully, obtaining false citizenship papers, and making false statements in support of naturalization.
In May 2021, Dunbar was charged in a superseding indictment with multiple counts of filing a false income tax return and failure to file tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Christian Dunbar’s conduct in this case demonstrates a shocking level of misconduct for anyone, let alone a senior official with the City of Philadelphia whose job it was to oversee the city’s fiscal stability,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero. “Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of complicated public corruption cases, and hold public officials accountable.”
During a hearing, the ex-treasurer admitted to obtaining U.S. citizenship by providing false information about where and with whom he was living, where his child was residing, and submitting a false lease and W-2 tax form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Dunbar, a Liberian immigrant, arranged a sham marriage to a former Temple University classmate in 2006. Dunbar’s first wife, who was not named in court filings, sponsored Dunbar for a green card in 2009.
Dunbar used his fake marriage from 2012 to 2016 to complete the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, and filed divorce papers to end that marriage two months after obtaining citizenship in 2017.
Within days of Dunbar’s first wedding, current wife Fatoumata Ndiaye-Dunbar — originally from Senegal — also married a former Temple University classmate and later received her own green card. The two later married one another in Senegal in 2013 despite the ex-treasurer still being legally married in the United States.
On their child’s 2014 birth records, Dunbar is listed as the father, Ndiaye-Dunbar is listed as the mother, and they are listed as being married to each other, according to court documents. Neither Ndiaye-Dunbar nor Christian Dunbar’s first wife were charged in the case.
Dunbar also admitted in federal court to not filing his personal income tax returns for the years 2015, 2016, and 2019 — the last of which he was serving as Philadelphia City Treasurer.
“Christian Dunbar fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship, building his life and career here on a foundation of lies,” said Jaqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It’s a sad irony that such a dishonest person wound up City Treasurer, a key position of public trust. Corruption like this corrodes people’s faith in government, which is why the FBI works so hard to hold crooked public officials accountable.”
Dunbar’s guilty plea came days before he was scheduled to face trial on those charges, along with allegations that he embezzled $15,000 from clients during a previous job as an advisor for Wells Fargo and later claimed tax deductions for false business losses related to a partnership with a medical marijuana firm he was involved with, the Inquirer reported.
Prosecutors agreed to drop those charges in exchange for a guilty plea on immigration and tax fraud charges. The ex-treasurer faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for January.