A Pennsylvania businessman charged with bribing Philadelphia’s District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams in exchange for special treatment pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax evasion charges on Thursday.
Prosecutors say Mohammad Ali, 40, provided a “stream” of bribes to Williams, including cash, an all-inclusive Dominican Republic vacation, furniture, expensive dinners, clothing and a Burberry purse for his girlfriend.
In exchange, Williams is accused of helping Ali avoid secondary security screenings when returning to the United States from foreign travel and giving him assistance with criminal charges brought against an unnamed associate.
Ali’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday afternoon.
Williams was charged in a 23-count indictment in March with accepting the bribes as well as fraud. A superseding indictment filed last week accused him of spending campaign funds on such personal items as massages and expensive dinners.
The federal indictment charges from March said that Williams accepted a $3,200 chocolate-colored couch, a used 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible and tickets and lodging for vacations, including a trip to Puta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
“Mr. Williams simply took money that did not belong to him and then he lied about it,” New Jersey U.S. Attorney Williams Fitzpatrick said in March. “He falsely told nursing home employees his relative, not himself, had spent the money.”
Williams was charged for accepting about $100,000 in gifts. Prior to the March indictment, he was fined $62,000 by the city Ethics Board for failing to report $160,000 in gifts. It was the largest fine the board ever issued.
An attorney for Williams, who has denied the bribery and fraud charges against him, could not be reached for comment following the guilty plea by Ali.
When he was elected in 2009, Williams became Philadelphia’s first black district attorney after a campaign that promised reform and transparency in the criminal justice system.