Disgraced ex-Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was sentenced Monday to ten years in prison for bribery and stealing campaign contributions, charitable donations, and federal grant money to finance his personal lifestyle.
A probe that expanded more than a year found that Fattah had used federal grant money from NASA to pay back part of an illegal $1 million loan he received from a wealthy friend to fund his failed 2007 campaign for Philadelphia mayor.
For the better part a decade, the longtime Philadelphia Democrat and his television anchor wife led a racketeering enterprise spurred on by loyal aides and political consultants, who commingled campaign cash and nonprofit and government funds to pay for Fattah’s personal expenses.
Fattah was indicted last July. In June, after a month-long trial, a jury found him and four other accomplices guilty on all federal counts, which included wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle reportedly called the Philadelphia Democrat’s crimes “astonishing” considering he and his wife had a $500,000 annual income placing them near the “top 1 percent.”
The extent of Fattah’s criminal corruption was far-reaching. He stole $23,000 in nonprofit funds to repay his son, Chaka Fattah Jr.’s, college loans. Fattah Jr. never graduated, and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for a related fraud case.
Fattah also took an $18,000 bribe to finagle an ambassadorship for a friend. Fattah’s friend never got the ambassador post. He and his wife used the $18,000 in bribe money for a down payment on a vacation home. Fattah falsified records and lied to authorities about the money.
“For someone so interested in advancing education for the disadvantaged, you had the temerity to steal from the Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit supported by government funds,” Judge Bartle said during Monday’s sentencing.
The 60-year-old Congressman-turned-convict was elected to office in 1994. He spent the last two decades in Congress before losing the primary earlier this year.
Last summer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was “deeply saddened” by the news of Fattah’s indictment. He was forced to step down as Ranking Member on the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee.
“While you have done much good, you also engaged in grave and widespread criminal activity,” Judge Bartle said. “You abused your trust, time and time again.”
Two of Fattah’s political consultants and accomplices pleaded guilty and testified against him. Fattah’s wife, longtime Philadelphia news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah and their two daughters were not charged.
Democrat Rep. Dwight Evans now holds Fattah’s seat in Congress.