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Former Rep. Chaka Fattah Sentenced To 10 Years For 'White-Collar Crime Spree'

Former Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., walks from the federal courthouse on Monday after his sentencing hearing in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke

A federal jury has sentenced former Rep. Chaka Fattah to 10 years in prison for 23 counts of conspiracy, fraud, bribery and money laundering in a series of elaborate schemes that misappropriated funds.

Prosecutors say Fattah engaged in a "white collar crime spree," as WHYY's Aaron Moselle tells our Newscast unit, and expect that Fattah will serve most of his 10-year sentence in addition to paying over $600,000 in restitution.

"For him, now, to be sitting in prison, that's a significant signal to those who are thinking of engaging in this conduct about what can happen if they do so,"
Zane David Memeger, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, told Moselle.

Some of Fattah's crimes were connected to his failed bid to become Philadelphia's mayor in 2007, after which he was deeply in debt.

"In June, a federal jury found that Fattah stole hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to help repay part of an illegal campaign loan," Moselle says. "The panel also said Fattah accepted bribes from a friend who wanted to become a U.S. ambassador and used campaign cash to help his son pay off some of his college loan debt."

Fattah's lawyers repeatedly denied the charges during the trial, saying that Fattah's associates were actually to blame, WHYY reports. They said that "Fattah's name or signature couldn't be found on any documents" and they plan to appeal.

"The investigation and the trial has been the most disappointing event in my now 60-year life," the 11-term lawmaker told U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in court, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I've helped tens of millions of people and that has nothing to do with the fact that I have been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury."

But Bartle said he found the crimes "astonishing" and ordered Fattah to begin serving his 10-year sentence on Jan. 25, the newspaper reported.

"You abused the trust they placed in you time and time again," the judge said, according to the Inquirer. "Your flagrant behavior undermines the confidence of the citizenry in all public institutions."

Fattah's political career has crumbled as a result of this trial; he lost the Democratic primary race in April, and he resigned from Congress in June after he was convicted.

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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