A Philadelphia congressman named Chaka Fattah has been indicted on racketeering charges that he and his campaign misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars during his 2007 campaign for mayor, which he lost.
Fattah and four of his accomplices have been charged with a list of charges including: bribery; conspiracy to commit wire, honest services, bank, and mail fraud, and money laundering. One of his schemes included using campaign funds to pay back $23,000 work of student loan debt his son held.
Reports indicate that Fattah’s schemes allegedly included multiple rackets including kickbacks and pay backs for contributions using federal grant money.
“The public does not expect their elected officials to misuse campaign funds, misappropriate government funds, accept bribes or commit bank fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger. “These type of criminal acts betray the public trust and undermine faith in government.”
Fattah has stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee. Nancy Pelosi had this to say:
The charges in the indictment against Congressman Chaka Fattah are deeply saddening. Congressman Fattah has been a tireless and effective advocate for America’s hard-working families across more than 20 years of distinguished service in the House.
The charges, as read by the Department of Justice, are as follows:
Specifically, the indictment alleges that, in connection with his failed 2007 campaign to serve as mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah and certain associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company. After he lost the election, Fattah allegedly returned $400,000 to the donor that the campaign had not used, and arranged for Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA), a non-profit entity that he founded and controlled, to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies, including one run by Brand. To conceal the contribution and repayment scheme, the defendants and others allegedly created sham contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.
In addition, the indictment alleges that after his defeat in the mayoral election, Fattah sought to extinguish approximately $130,000 in campaign debt owed to a political consultant by agreeing to arrange for the award of federal grant funds to the consultant. According to the allegations in the indictment, Fattah directed the consultant to apply for a $15 million grant, which he did not ultimately receive, on behalf of a then non-existent non-profit entity. In exchange for Fattah’s efforts to arrange the award of the funds to the non-profit, the consultant allegedly agreed to forgive the debt owed by the campaign.
The indictment further alleges that Fattah misappropriated funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay his son’s student loan debt. To execute the scheme, Fattah and Bowser allegedly arranged for his campaigns to make payments to a political consulting company, which the company then used to lessen Fattah’s son’s student loan debt. According to the allegations in the indictment, between 2007 and 2011, the consultant made 34 successful loan payments on behalf of Fattah’s son, totaling approximately $23,000.
In another alleged scheme, beginning in 2008, Fattah communicated with individuals in the legislative and executive branches in an effort to secure for Vederman an ambassadorship or an appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission. In exchange, Vederman provided money and other items of value to Fattah. As part of this scheme, the indictment alleges that the defendants sought to conceal an $18,000 bribe payment from Vederman to Fattah by disguising it as a payment for a car sale that never actually took place.
Finally, the indictment alleges that Nicholas obtained $50,000 in federal grant funds that she claimed would be used by EAA to support a conference on higher education. The conference never took place. Instead, Nicholas used the grant funds to pay $20,000 to a political consultant and $10,000 to her attorney, and wrote several checks to herself from EAA’s operating account.
The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Assistance was also provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, the NASA Office of Inspector General and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Eric L. Gibson, T. Patrick Martin and Jonathan Kravis of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Trial Attorney Bob Dalton of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section also provided assistance in this case.