Philadelphia business owner charged with fraud and tax evasion


Date: June 29, 2023


A federal grand jury in Philadelphia returned a superseding indictment today charging a Pennsylvania man with seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and three counts of tax evasion. He was previously charged with the wire and mail fraud counts in an indictment unsealed on Jan. 3, 2023.

According to the superseding indictment, John Griffin of Philadelphia was the principal and founder of Second Story Farming, Inc., doing business as Metropolis Farms, a business purportedly involved with developing and manufacturing sustainable vertical farming technologies. Between approximately 2016 to 2018, Griffin allegedly made misrepresentations, promising to provide two entities with the equipment necessary to create indoor vertical farms. In total, both entities allegedly paid Griffin $760,000 to purchase the equipment, yet Griffin allegedly used only a fraction of that money to purchase equipment. The remainder was allegedly used to operate Griffin's own business and pay his personal expenses.

The superseding indictment further alleges that from 2016 through 2018, Griffin received at least $420,000 in gross income from his work for Second Story Farming and did not report it on his federal tax returns, and allegedly did not to file a personal tax return since at least 2014. Griffin allegedly attempted to evade his income taxes by making personal withdrawals from business bank accounts and transferring funds from business bank accounts to his wife and entities he controlled.

If convicted, Griffin faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire and mail fraud count and 5 years in prison for each of tax evasion count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department's Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.

IRS-Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Catriona Coppler of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ignall of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case.