The Lookout

Philly building collapse: Contractor has criminal record; owner once dubbed ‘porn king’

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People flee the scene of a building collapse in Philadelphia, June 5, 2013. (Jordan McLaughlin/AP)

The contractor in charge of the four-story building that collapsed—killing six people and injuring 14—onto a thrift store in Philadelphia on Wednesday had a permit to tear down the building. He also has a criminal record.

According to NBC 10 in Philadelphia, Griffin Campbell, the 49-year-old owner of Griffin Campbell Construction, pleaded guilty to theft and insurance fraud in 2009. He also had filed for bankruptcy protection in March "and owes thousands in unpaid city business taxes as well as state and federal taxes."

Additionally, reports The Associated Press, Campbell was acquitted of aggravated assault charges in 2007; in 2005, he was charged "with dealing crack cocaine near a playground." But those charges "were dismissed after prosecutors misplaced evidence."

Meanwhile, the owner of the building, Richard Basciano, is a former boxer once dubbed the "undisputed prince of porn" by the New York Daily News for his string of Times Square peep-show parlors and adult night clubs.

[Related: Witnesses describe chaotic scene, people pulled from rubble]

When former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom Basciano called his "nemesis," pushed to clean up Times Square, Basciano "stepped up" his smut-peddling in Philly, Philadelphia magazine said, focusing on a seedy stretch of real estate in Center City as well as a row of buildings once owned by "notorious blight meister and slumlord Sam Rappaport."

But in December, Basciano told Philly.com he was "fed up with the adult business" and wanted to clean up his act, "particularly on two blocks at the western end of Market Street," where his building collapsed on Wednesday.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the city and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the building collapse. On Thursday, Nutter said a "wide-ranging" investigation was already under way.

"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the people affected by this tragic event," Basciano's company, STB Investments, said in a statement on Thursday. "Please know that we are committed to working with the City of Philadelphia and other authorities to determine what happened yesterday."

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