Friday, December 30, 2016 by Don Wrightman
Chaka Fattah, a former representative, was sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison on Monday. According to authorities, Fattah orchestrated an array of corrupt dealings which financially benefited himself, and his family. Fattah was convicted in June for racketeering and related counts. Prosecutors accused him of many illegal maneuvers which abused his office, and helped to cover his tracks. Many of which centered around the longtime congressman’s unsuccessful bid for mayor of Philadelphia, back in 2007.
Prosecutors alleged that Fattah and his associates arranged an illegal loan for $1 million to support his campaign for mayor. Charitable funds and federal grant money was stolen to repay a portion of the loan. To pay off another campaign debt, Fattah promised to get federal funding for a nonexistent nonprofit organization. He used campaign funds to pay personal expenses, including his son’s college tuition.
“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,” wrote prosecutors urging the judge to penalize Fattah harshly. 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.”
The US probation office calculated a range for federal sentencing guidelines between 17 and a half years, up to 21 years and ten months. Prosecutors said the calculation was an understatement to one factor, while defense attorneys said it overstated several factors.
Prior to his conviction, Fattah lost the Democratic primary for his legislative seat. He resigned several days after being found guilty by the jury. Fattah had been serving in congress since 1995, before falling from grace.
After the sentencing, US Attorney Zane David Memeger stated that prosecutors were pleased with the outcome. “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 tried to argue that the government’s case was based on information gathered from individuals who cut plea deals to avoid harsher penalties for themselves. Fattah’s attorney Mark Lee urged the judge to consider Fattah’s record of being an accomplished legislator. Lee declined to comment for the story. Chaka Fattah has been ordered to report to prison by January 25, 2017.