Chaka Fattah Indicted in Alleged Racketeering Conspiracy
[UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.]: Fattah has issued a statement on this morning’s indictment against him and four associates:
“This has been an eight-year effort by some in the Department of Justice to link my public service career to some form of wrongdoing. With today’s charges, this misguided campaign has now moved from speculation to specific allegations.
“As I have previously stated, I have never participated in any illegal activity or misappropriation of taxpayer dollars as an elected official. For the last 21 years, I have represented the people of Philadelphia in Congress with honor and dignity, helping millions of families through my efforts focused on education, employment, mortgage relief, and health care. I will proudly continue to serve my constituents and look forward to helping millions more.
“Per House rules and precedent, I have stepped aside from my role as Ranking Member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science.
“This will not be a distraction from my service to the people that elected me, and I am confident that I will be cleared of these charges.”
[ORIGINAL, 11:30 a.m.]: On Wednesday morning, the United States Attorney in Philadelphia announced federal tax evasion charges against sitting Democratic U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, who has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd District since assuming office in 1995.
Fattah and four associates were indicted on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in a racketeering conspiracy that involved misappropriating “hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds,” according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney. Also charged are Bonnie Bowser of Philadelphia, Karen Nicholas of Williamstown, N.J., Herbert Vederman of Palm Beach, Florida, and Robert Brand of Philadelphia. Charges include racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and bank fraud, among other offenses. (Read the full indictment, and a list of charges and defendants, below.)
Among the schemes alleged, prosecutors claim that Fattah and some associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy donor in connection with his failed 2007 mayoral bid and that he hid the money as a loan to a consultant. He repaid $400,000 after the campaign and allegedly arranged for a non profit to repay the rest, disguising the whole mess with fake contracts and false accounting entries and bogus campaign disclosure statements.
Fattah is also accused of trying to use federal grant funds to repay a debt to a consultant, as well as allegedly using $23,000 in campaign funds to pay his son’s student loan debt.
Fattah could face decades in prison if convicted.
The U.S. Attorney’s investigation into Fattah began in March 2013. Fattah is not currently in custody.
Former Fattah associates Gregory Naylor and Thomas Lindenfeld had previously pleaded guilty to fraud charges that, according to court documents, involved an unnamed “Elected Official A.” That official was widely believed to be Fattah.
Prior to his time in Washington D.C., Fattah, born Arthur Davenport, was a member of the Pennsylvania Senate and, before that, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Fattah’s wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah, is a longtime anchor at NBC 10. His son, Chaka “Chip” Fattah, Jr., is currently facing federal charges that he defrauded several banks, the government, and the School District of Philadelphia.
More as this develops.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.