Rep. Chaka Fattah convicted on all charges in fraud and corruption case

Charles Mostoller

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was found guilty Tuesday on corruption charges in federal court, more than eight years after his fundraising for an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in Philadelphia sparked a federal probe.

He was convicted on all 23 charges related to racketeering, fraud, bribery, money laundering and conspiracy.

“Tough day,” Fattah said while leaving federal court.

“I do want to thank the jurors,” he added before being driven away. He declined to comment further.

Fattah, 59, served 11 terms in the House representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District. He was defeated in the Democratic primary in April by state Rep. Dwight Evans after being indicted.

The guilty verdict came at the end of the most closely watched political corruption trial in Philadelphia in years, and just months after his son, Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr., was sentenced to five years on separate fraud charges.

“Congressman Fattah corruptly abused his office for his own personal and political gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. “He took bribes, committed fraud and even stole money from his own campaigns. In short, Congressman Fattah and his co-defendants deprived the people of eastern Pennsylvania of their right to the honest services of their elected representative.”

Four associates of Fattah charged in the same case — Herbert Vederman, a former deputy mayor on whose behalf Fattah sought an appointment as ambassador; Robert Brand; Karen Nicholas; and Bonnie Bowser — were also convicted.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult day for me and my family. A jury has decided that based on the evidence presented to them that I am guilty of charges presented by the government,” Fattah said in a statement after the verdictwas announced.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult day for me and my family,” he continued. “While today’s outcome isn’t what we had hoped, I respect our nation’s judicial system. I want to thank the people of the Second Congressional District for the honor of serving them.”

According to prosecutors, Fattah, who was born Arthur Davenport, misused federal funds to pay off personal and political debts, and to benefit his family and friends.

Testimony at trial came from former friends and confidants who detailed how Fattah’s financial schemes unraveled.

“In connection with his failed 2007 campaign to serve as mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah and certain associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter, and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company,” federal prosecutors said in a press release after his conviction.

Fattah used Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit he controlled, to repay $600,000 of the loan. He also used campaign funds to pay off $23,000 of his son’s student loans. He fraudulently applied for a $15 million grant, which he did not receive, to cover a $130,000 debt to a consultant, and while seeking an ambassadorship for Vederman, concealed an $18,000 bribe as payment for a sham car sale.

The car in question is believed to have been used by Fattah’s wife, former NBC10 anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. Chenault-Fattah left NBC10 after Fattah was indicted.

Fattah is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 4.

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