By Steve Neavling
Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and four associates were indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on racketeering conspiracy charges, accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and charity and campaign funds.
The 58-year-old Democrat from Philadelphia was charged in a 29-count indictment along with lobbyist Herbert Vederman, 69, of Palm Beach, Florida; Fattah’s Congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, 59, of Philadelphia; and Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, New Jersey, the FBI announced Wednesday.
They are accused of bribery, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and numerous counts of bank fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution and falsification of records.
“As charged in the indictment, Congressman Fattah and his associates embarked on a wide-ranging conspiracy involving bribery, concealment of unlawful campaign contributions and theft of charitable and federal funds to advance their own personal interests,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said. “When elected officials betray the trust and confidence placed in them by the public, the department will do everything we can to ensure that they are held accountable. Public corruption takes a particularly heavy toll on our democracy because it undermines people’s basic belief that our elected leaders are committed to serving the public interest, not to lining their own pockets.”
“These crimes and the subsequent elaborate cover-up constitute an egregious breach of public trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It is the duty of the FBI, IRS and Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute those who violate this trust and put personal gain above public service.”
Some of the charges date back to Fattah’s failed 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. He and his associates are accused of borrowing $1 million from a wealthy supporter and concealing the funds with sham contracts.
Fattah also is accused of trying to pay down a $130,000 campaign debt by attempting to steer federal grants to the consult with whom he owed money by inventing a nonprofit.