The word came down yesterday from a federal jury in Philadelphia: Representative Chaka Fattah found guilty of racketeering conspiracy. It took the jury two-and-a-half days to reach the verdict in the month-long trial over Rep. Fattah’s (D-PA) masterminding a broad racketeering conspiracy that included taking bribes, misappropriating federal grant money & charitable contributions and defrauding campaign vendors.
The word came down yesterday from a federal jury in Philadelphia: Representative Chaka Fattah found guilty of racketeering conspiracy. It took the jury two-and-a-half days to reach the verdict in the month-long trial over Rep. Fattah’s (D-PA) masterminding a broad racketeering conspiracy that included taking bribes, misappropriating federal grant money & charitable contributions and defrauding campaign vendors. The 11-term congressman was convicted on all of the 22 counts with which he’d been charged in July 2015. That indictment also charged four of Fattah’s long-time allies and associates.
As Fattah exited the courtroom, he said, “It’s a tough day, but I do want to thank the jurors for their service. We will have to confer with my counsel. We’ll figure out what our next steps are.” Fattah lost his primary election bid in April, so it’s been a bad spring/summer for him.
Fattah also faced accusations of conspiring with Karen Nicholas, the former CEO of his no-longer-existing charity, the Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA), as well as working with Robert Brand, a local businessman, to use federal grant funds and charitable contributions from EAA to cover the remaining balance on an illegal $1M loan. The loan supported Fattah’s unsuccessful 2007 bid to become Philadelphia’s mayor. Both Nicholas and Brand were also found guilty for their parts in the racketeering conspiracy.
As they say on late-night infomercials: “Wait! There’s more!”
The indictment also included Fattah’s former chief-of-staff for his Philadelphia district office, Bonnie Bowser. Bowser allegedly worked with Fattah to hide some of the money used toward his campaign’s get-out-the-vote initiative. Bowser also allegedly moved money from Fattah’s campaign accounts to help pay his son, Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr.’s student loans to Drexel University. Bowser was cleared of all the racketeering charges the same day her former boss was found guilty. However, she was found guilty of money laundering, falsification of records and bank fraud, as well as other charges.
And that’s not all!
One last co-defendant, former Philadelphia deputy mayor (also formerly a government affairs specialist with Stradely Ronon Stevens & Young LLP), Herbert Vederman faced accusations of bribing Fattah. The alleged bribes were in exchange for giving Vederman’s girlfriend a job at Fattah’s Philly district office, as well as Fattah’s support for Vederman’s attempt to get an ambassadorship or trade appointment.
Vederman’s dreams of ambassadorial glory vanished as he was also found guilty. When that verdict was delivered, his family raised an outcry from the gallery. This earned them a swift rebuke from U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle, who said, over the pounding of his gavel, “There should be no reaction.”
In a statement issued shortly after the verdict was announced, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said that Fattah and the others “betrayed the public trust,” undermining public faith in the government. “Today’s verdict makes clear that the citizens of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania expect their public officials to act with honesty and integrity, and to not sell their office for personal gain.”
He also said that Fattah and the others will face time in jail. However, he didn’t comment on how much time, preferring to wait until the recommended sentencing guidelines are determined. He did say, “We will ask for a sentence within that range, possibly above that range. Today’s convictions should send a message that the Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute political corruption wherever it takes place, and uphold the principles of honesty and integrity that are the foundation of our government.”
Fattah is free on bail until his October 4 sentencing hearing. Brand and Vederman will also be sentenced then. Bowser and Nicholas have sentencing scheduled for October 5.