For­mer Pennsylvania con­gress­man gets 10 years for cor­rup­tion.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARYCLAIRE DALE

PHILADEL­PHIA | For­mer U.S. Rep. Chaka Fat­tah was sen­tenced Mon­day to a 10-year prison term by a judge who said he was “as­ton­ished” that a vet­eran leg­is­la­tor would steal gov­ern­ment and char­ity funds to pay his son’s debts and buy a va­ca­tion home.

Fat­tah, a Demo­crat who was born into a fam­ily of black ac­tivists in west Philadel­phia, spent two decades in Congress work­ing on hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, gun con­trol and other is­sues of con­cern to his mostly poor district. Fat­tah and his TV an­chor wife mean­while took in more than $500,000 a year.

Yet Fat­tah’s fi­nances grew in­creas­ingly dire af­ter a failed 2007 run for mayor, when he faced new cam­paign spend­ing lim­its that led him to take an il­le­gal $1 mil­lion loan from a friend. The trou­ble es­ca­lated when the friend called in the debt.

As he awaited his sen­tence, Fat­tah told the judge he had mixed emo­tions: sad­dened to find him­self in court but grate­ful for the work he was able to do over 37 years as a state and fed­eral law­maker.

“I’ve helped tens of mil­lions of peo­ple,” said Fat­tah, 60. “(That) has noth­ing to do with the fact that I’ve been found on the wrong side of these ques­tions by a jury.”

Fat­tah lost the spring pri­mary days be­fore trial and re­signed his seat fol­low­ing his June con­vic­tion. The jury found he took the $1 mil­lion loan from the chair­man of Sal­lie Mae, the stu­dent loan cor­po­ra­tion. He re­turned $400,000 of it and re­paid some of the rest with fed­eral grant money he had steered to an ed­u­ca­tion non­profit run by for­mer aides.

The non­profit ef­forts — in­clud­ing a NASA­funded mo­bile sci­ence class­room em­bla­zoned with Fat­tah’s name that roamed Philadel­phia dur­ing the may­oral cam­paign — helped pro­mote Fat­tah’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, prose­cu­tors said. Fat­tah was also or­dered Mon­day to re­pay $600,000 to Sal­lie Mae and NASA.

“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,” U.S. District Judge Har­vey Bar­tle said. “While you have done much good, you also en­gaged in grave and wide­spread crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.”

Four co-de­fen­dants who helped Fat­tah move gov­ern­ment grants and other money be­tween his cam­paign, the non­prof­its and his con­sul­tants will be sen­tenced through­out the week.

Fat­tah used the money on cam­paign and per­sonal ex­penses, the jury found. He put $23,000 in non­profit funds to­ward his son’s col­lege loans and took an $18,000 bribe to try to help a friend be­come an am­bas­sador. Fat­tah and his wife used that money for a down pay­ment on a Po­conos va­ca­tion home. They told au­thor­i­ties it cov­ered the friend’s pur­chase of a Porsche owned by Fat­tah’s wife, but the Porsche never left their garage.

Fat­tah had in­sisted the Jus­tice Depart­ment had been out to get him and his fam­ily for years. He plans to ap­peal the con­vic­tion.

“There are so many peo­ple in this court­room and out­side that owe their suc­cess — and also are able to serve the com­mu­nity so much bet­ter — as a re­sult of the con­gress­man’s in­flu­ence, sup­port and in­spi­ra­tion,” said Joseph Quinones, a one-time high school dropout who said that Fat­tah’s en­cour­age­ment led him to earn a mas­ter’s de­gree from the Univer­sity of Pennsylvania’s Whar­ton School.

The con­gress­man’s son is serv­ing a five-year prison term in an over­lap­ping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka “Chip” Fat­tah Jr. was con­victed of us­ing fraud­u­lently ob­tained busi­ness loans to fund his jet-set life­style.

The el­der Fat­tah, who earned $174,000 as a con­gress­man, is mar­ried to long­time Philadel­phia news an­chor Renee Chenault-Fat­tah. They have two school-age chil­dren. Chenault-Fat­tah spent 25 years with WCAU-TV be­fore she re­signed af­ter the in­dict­ment named her a par­tic­i­pant in the bribery scheme. She was never charged and has de­nied wrong­do­ing.

Fat­tah’s co-de­fen­dants in­clude for­mer Philadel­phia Deputy Mayor Her­bert Ve­d­er­man, of Palm Springs, Florida, who had sought the am­bas­sador­ship. Two po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants pleaded guilty and tes­ti­fied at trial.

Prose­cu­tors had asked for a 17- to 21-year sen­tence. The judge gave Fat­tah un­til Jan. 25 to re­port to prison.

Fat­tah en­tered Congress in 1995. For­mer state Rep. Dwight Evans, a fel­low Demo­crat, now holds his seat.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer Rep. Chaka Fat­tah, Pennsylvania Demo­crat, was sen­tenced Mon­day to 10 years in prison for mis­spending gov­ern­ment grants and char­ity money.

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