Democratic Rep. Fattah Charged In Racketeering Conspiracy

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By Emily Stephenson

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday said it charged U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and four of his associates with participating in a racketeering conspiracy and other crimes.

The department said Fattah, who represents Philadelphia in the House of Representatives, and the others faced a 29-count indictment including charges of bribery, mail fraud, falsification of records, bank fraud, money laundering and other crimes related to Fattah’s 2007 unsuccessful run for mayor of Philadelphia.

Fattah, 58, was first elected to the House in 1994.

The other indicted were lobbyist Herbert Vederman, 69, of Palm Beach, Florida; Fattah’s congressional district director Bonnie Bowser, 59, of Philadelphia; Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, New Jersey.

The indictment alleges that in connection with his failed 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah and certain associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company.

The Justice Department said that after losing the election, Fattah allegedly returned $400,000 to the donor and arranged for a non-profit entity that he founded and controlled to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies.

To conceal the contribution and repayment scheme, the defendants and others allegedly created sham contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements, the department said.

“I can tell you that the conduct that Congressman Fattah engaged in undermines public faith in government, undermines confidence in government, that the behavior is something that our public does not expect their public officials to engage in,” Zane David Memeger, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, said at a news conference in Philadelphia.