Former representative Chaka Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday for orchestrating a variety of corrupt dealings to benefit himself and his family financially, authorities said.
Fattah (D-Pa.) was convicted in June of racketeering and related counts. Prosecutors had accused the longtime congressman of a medley of illegal maneuvers to abuse his office and cover his tracks, many of them centered on his unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Philadelphia 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 also promised to get federal funding earmarked to a nonexistent nonprofit organization to pay off another mayoral campaign debt, and he used campaign funds to pay personal expenses, including his son’s college tuition, prosecutors alleged.
“In committing his crimes and directing the criminal activity of others, Fattah sought to strengthen himself politically, enrich himself and his co-conspirators, steal from nonprofits and the federal taxpayers, and defraud his campaigns, their creditors and a credit union,” prosecutors wrote in urging the judge to impose a harsh penalty. They said it was “difficult to overstate the seriousness of Fattah’s crimes given the unique position of trust that elected officials hold in our democratic system.”
Prosecutors had asked that Fattah, 60, receive a term within the range called for by federal sentencing guidelines. The U.S. probation office calculated that range as between 17 years and six months at the low end and 21 years and 10 months at the high end — although prosecutors said that calculation understated one factor, and defense attorneys said it overstated several.
Even before he was convicted, Fattah lost the Democratic primary for his legislative seat. He resigned just days after jurors found him guilty.
Fattah had served in Congress since 1995, and his trial, conviction and sentence marked an astonishing downfall.
In a statement after the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said prosecutors were “pleased with today’s outcome while also recognizing the tragedy of this defendant’s fall from grace.”
“We hope that the lengthy prison sentence imposed today deters those public officials who might be tempted to engage in corruption, as our office remains committed to investigating and prosecuting public corruption at all levels of government,” Memeger added.
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.” At the sentencing, they urged the judge to consider Fattah’s record of accomplishments as a legislator. Mark Lee, Fattah’s attorney, declined to comment for this story.
Fattah was ordered to report to prison by Jan. 25.