Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a longtime federal lawmaker and staple of Philadelphia politics, was convicted Tuesday of orchestrating a medley of corrupt dealings to boost his career and help himself and his family financially, authorities said.
In April Fattah, 59, lost his reelection bid while the allegations of wrongdoing swirled around him, and now he faces potentially an even more serious consequence: federal prison. He was convicted of racketeering and all other counts against him.
In a statement, Fattah, who has served in Congress since 1995, said the verdict marked “an extraordinarily difficult day for me and my family.” He noted some of his legislative and other accomplishments, and said he was “proud of that record.”
“While today’s outcome isn’t what we had hoped, I respect our nation’s judicial system,” Fattah said. “I want to thank the people of the Second Congressional District for the honor of serving them.”
Fattah and several allies were charged in a 29-count indictment in July with racketeering and other crimes for what prosecutors said was a variety of schemes to abuse the congressman’s office and cover their tracks. Defense attorneys had argued that the government’s case was based on the word of those who cut plea deals to avoid stiffer penalties themselves and that Fattah had “nothing to do with any of it.”
The trial, which began in the middle of May, signaled a remarkable downfall for Fattah, who — despite his loss in the 2007 Philadelphia mayoral race — seemed to be a stalwart in Philadelphia politics, having held his congressional seat for more than two decades.
Allegations had long swirled around him, but as recently as two years ago he had no primary challenger and easily defeated a Republican opponent. The congressman, though, was bested in the Democratic primary earlier this year by state Rep. Dwight Evans, probably because of the looming criminal case. A Fattah representative declined to address whether the congressman would now resign his seat immediately.
Many of the corrupt dealings alleged by prosecutors stemmed from Fattah’s unsuccessful bid to become Philadelphia mayor in 2007. Prosecutors said Fattah and his associates arranged an illegal $1 million loan to support Fattah’s mayoral campaign and stole charitable and federal grant money to repay a portion of it. Fattah promised to get federal funding earmarked to a nonexistent nonprofit organization to pay off another mayoral campaign debt, prosecutors charged.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said the verdict makes clear that Pennsylvania residents “expect their public officials to act with honesty and integrity, and to not sell their office for personal gain.”
“Hopefully,” Memeger said, “our elected officials in Philadelphia and elsewhere hear today’s message loud and clear.”
Prosecutors also said that Fattah used campaign money to pay personal expenses, including his son’s college tuition, and that he helped a lobbyist try to win a job as an ambassador or trade representative in exchange for cash and other gratuities.
Fattah’s defense attorney and his chief of staff were not immediately available to comment Tuesday afternoon. The congressman is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 4.