PHILADELPHIA - Just the mention of the name Tyron Ali will make some in Pennsylvania shudder. He is the man at the center of a scandal that helped claim the careers of politicians and prosecutors.
But now he has a little trouble of his own. Jeff Cole has this FOX 29 Investigation.
"I don't want this on television," Ali told us.
"I hear you. I want to talk to you though," Cole said.
A former registered lobbyist who ran a food program and daycare, the 43-year-old Ali once faced hundreds of criminal charges related to taking federal funds intended for poor kids and seniors.
He beat that rap by going undercover in a state corruption sting.
Six Democratic city pols were accused of taking bribes. Five have pleaded out; one still faces trial.
Ali's charges were dropped in exchange for his cooperation, and he paid a fine to the feds.
Now he's got trouble of a different sort.
"Please be fair in your reporting," Ali told us.
Stephen and Cindy Coone thought they'd found just the right home in Frankford, a two-bedroom with a basement and yard on Kinsey Street.
Stephen says he met the owner, Ali, through a job and even helped work on some of his rentals.
"I gave him a hand to get it together," Coone said.
"So, you worked on what was going to be your apartment?" Cole followed-up.
The couple says they signed a lease and started moving stuff in just before New Year's. The landlord invited them to look around the place but got upset when a relative tried entering the basement.
Asked what was wrong with that, Coone said, "No idea," adding, "…He asked him not to go down to the basement, there's – 'You have no business going down there.'"
Then, Ali wanted the brother-in-law banned from ever visiting. The couple backed away.
Ali kept the key and their $1,400 deposit.
That's when the Coones say they learned of Ali's past.
Records show Ali owns multiple properties, but he's renting someone else's place on Rutland Street.
We asked about the Coones.
Cole: "You've got $1,400 of his money. What happened?"
Ali: "He didn't want to take possession of it."
Cole: "Well, you did a little addendum."
Cole: "Right? He signed his lease?"
Cole: "Then you added an addendum?"
Cole: "Addendum said his brother-in-law couldn't come into the house?"
Ali: "Uh, no, that's not what happened. He said that that person burned his house down."
Cole: "He told you the guy burned his house down?"
Ali: "Yes, he did.
Cole: "No, no, no…"
Ali: "Yes, he did."
Stephen tells us his brother-in-law, who lived in a unit beneath him at the old apartment, works with a heating and air conditioning company and helped clean up after the kitchen fire, not start it.
The brother-in-law says he wasn't even home at the time.
Cole: "But, listen, if he already signed a lease…"
Cole: "…and gave you $1,400, and then you come with the addendum…"
Ali: "I have no further comment."
Cole: "… how can you not give him the $1,400 back?"
Ali's lawyer wrote the Coones to say their money was being kept for two months' rent, and they could be on the hook for more.
Ali said he had no more comment, but when Cole asked if he owed any taxes on that property, he answered, "No I do not. Not anymore. I made an arrangement."
But online records show Ali owes $4,000 on the Kinsey Street home's taxes, with no payment plan, plus $35,000 on other properties. One bill dates back to 2007.
Cole: "Do you have a renter's license for all of your properties?"
Ali: "Yes, I do."
Cole: "You do? For every one of them?"
Ali: "Yes, I only have two."
We learned Ali holds one active license, but his Kinsey Street license expired in 2010.
The Coones were initially pleased to find this rental because Stephen has Neurofibromatosis a genetic disorder that can cause learning disabilities. His income is limited.
Ali: "I have an attorney."
Cole: "You've taken $1,400 from this man, who doesn't have much."
Ali: "Mr. Cole, Mr. Cole…"
Cole: "Why can't you give that back to him?"
Ali: "Hey, we are going to court. We will be in court on this."
Actually, the Coones' small-claims case was "dismissed" last month when Ali couldn't be served with papers.
Cole: "Did you pull all the licenses you needed for the work that were done on those properties?"
Ali: "Those, I did the majority of the work myself."
Cole: "Well, does that – do you think that you don't need to be licensed in anyway?"
Ali: "I just replaced the sinks and I replaced the sheetrock. I didn't do anything else."
Yet, emails Stephen gave the court show Ali switched the Kinsey Street home from gas heat to electric. Online records show no permit pulled.
We asked Ali about his past.
Ali: "That has nothing to do with this."
Cole: "Does that reflect on this in any way?"
Ali: "No it does not."
Cole: "Are you at all concerned that it does?"
Ali: "Not at all."
Cole: "But should the public think that maybe you're not being up-and-up here?"
Ali: "No sir, no sir."
The Coones are in staying in different places right now, paying to store their belongings and looking for a new place to live together.
Ali is slated expected to testify in the case of one remaining state representative charged in connection with the undercover corruption sting investigation. Her trial was scheduled to begin this month but was recently delayed until June.
As always, we'll keep on top of this and bring you any updates.
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