A Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania could face decades in prison after he was convicted on bribery, money laundering and fraud charges on June 21. He reportedly used taxpayer dollars to fuel his political ambitions and pay off cronies.
Rep. Chaka Fattah, 59, was found guilty of accepting an illegal, unreported $1 million campaign loan and using federal grants and money from charities to repay part of the loan, according to The Hill.
The 11-term congressman took out the loan in 2007 when he launched a failed bid for Philadelphia mayor, Philly.com reported. That campaign was derailed after Fattah was cited for violating campaign ethics and finance laws.
With $1 million in debt and nothing to show for it, the congressman -- who sat on the powerful House Appropriations subcommittee, which doles out federal funds -- conspired with aides to use federal grant money to pay off his debt, prosecutors said.
Federal investigators followed the money trail, which led to the 2014 conviction of former Fattah aide Gregory Naylor, 66. Naylor told a federal court that he used $622,000 in campaign contributions and federal grant funds to help pay down Fattah's debt, according to Philly.com. Naylor also admitted he took $22,000 in campaign donations to pay off college loans for Fattah's son.
Prosecutors said Fattah also promised to steer federal grant money to a donor in exchange for forgiving a $130,000 campaign debt and accepted bribes to secure an ambassadorship for former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, The Hill reported.
Fattah was unsuccessful in getting Vederman appointed to an ambassadorial post. Vederman was a co-defendant in the case and was convicted on all counts against him, NBC Philadelphia noted.
Fattah's son, 33-year-old Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., was convicted of 22 counts of tax fraud by a federal jury in November 2015, according to WCAU. Fattah Jr. used federal education contracts and business loans to fund a lavish lifestyle. Fattah Jr. reportedly used the taxpayer dollars to treat himself to a car, a luxury condo, high-end electronics, and parties catered by expensive restaurants.
A separate investigation by the Philadelphia Enquirer revealed Fattah used nonprofits to steer $5.8 million to close associates and former staffers.
Despite being an incumbent, Fattah lost his party's primary in 2016, and his re-election campaign was derailed when news of the federal charges broke, The Hill reported. He will likely face pressure to step down from his post before his term officially ends.
"This charge cost him his reelection," Howard Bruce Klein, a former federal prosecutor, said, according to NBC Philadelphia. "He'd been an 11-term Congressman and did a lot of things for his constituents when he was in office. So I would say it’s a sad ending for a public servant who made scholarships available for thousands of students over the years, but now has come to a very unhappy ending, being guilty of corruption. So it’s a sad day for the Congressman, it’s a sad day for his constituents and it’s a sad day for Philadelphia."