ATLANTIC CITY — Federal investigators have questioned at least four local people about Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. since last fall, focusing on campaign checks and a local charity.
Three people who requested anonymity said the FBI asked them about checks made out to others that Gilliam is alleged to have kept or put into his own campaign account. Two people said they were asked about the Atlantic City nonprofit charity Connecting the Dots.
The checks include one for $10,000 from the Atlantic County Democratic Committee, made out to the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, that the mayor said he mistakenly deposited into his own account; and others for running mate Councilman George Tibbitt’s campaign that Gilliam is alleged to have kept.
A fourth person speaking on the record said he was contacted by the FBI earlier this year.
“Out of respect for the investigation I will leave it at that,” said Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairperson Michael Suleiman, who declined to elaborate on the FBI’s questions for him.
A request for confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice about the focus of the FBI investigations was not returned Monday. Nearly a dozen agents from the FBI and the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division searched Gilliam’s North Ohio Avenue home for more than four hours on Dec. 3.
In March, the city Democratic Committee filed a criminal complaint in municipal court against Gilliam and his former campaign manager, Richard Winstead. Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury Jr. dismissed the criminal complaint March 27, finding there was “no probable cause to believe that an offense was committed” by Gilliam or Winstead.
Neither Gilliam nor Winstead responded Monday to requests for comment.
In previous Press reports, Tibbitt said he was questioned by federal investigators about 10 $300 checks meant for his campaign that were never deposited after being handed to Gilliam.
Gilliam, who became involved with Connecting the Dots at least as early as 2009, raised money for the group last spring at his inaugural gala. Tickets started at $300 and sponsorships ranged from $500 to $35,000. The event was at Resorts Casino Hotel with a lineup of celebrities, including former basketball player Dennis Rodman and boxing champion Evander Holyfield.
Patricia Tweedle, identified on tax documents as the main contact for the group, has not returned multiple phone calls or responded to information left at her home. Her house on Emerson Avenue in the city is listed as the address for the nonprofit.
Its website says Connecting The Dots Inc.’s goal is to encourage, motivate and empower the community through education and mentoring.
In the past several months, its Facebook page has posted information about scholarships and events to help students prepare for SATs and assist people in clearing outstanding warrants. Connecting the Dots was also involved with an event to provide swimming opportunities for children with disabilities.
According to 990 forms and the IRS, the organization reported $5,274 in donations in 2015, and it filed electronic postcard 990 returns in 2016 and 2017 that gave few details, but stated it did not raise more than $50,000 in either year.
Gilliam was listed as working 10 hours per week for the group in 2015, but the 990 said neither he nor others who worked 5-25 hours a week were paid.
The charity has not registered as required with the state Department of Consumer Affairs, according to the agency’s database.