Rep. Chaka Fattah, one of the senior black lawmakers in Congress, was indicted Wednesday for the misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable, and campaign funds.
Representative Fattah, a Democrat who has represented Philadelphia in the House of Representatives since 1994, was charged along with four associates on 29 counts in an alleged racketeering conspiracy.
The charges included bribery, mail fraud, falsification of records, bank fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution.
According to the US Department of Justice, Fattah and several associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter during Fattah’s failed 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia.
After losing the election, Fattah returned $400,000 to the donor and allegedly arranged for the Educational Advancement Alliance, a charity that he founded and controlled, to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies.
In order to hide the repayment scheme, the defendants created fake contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns, and campaign finance disclosure statements.
The indictment also alleges that Fattah used campaign funds to repay his son's student debt of $23,000.
Speaking to reporters outside his office on Wednesday, Fattah maintained that he had ”never been involved in any wrong doing, any unlawful activity and any misappropriation of federal funds.” He also noted that “I am going to keep doing my work.”
Fattah, who is known for his leadership in areas of education reform, is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and heads the Congressional Urban Caucus, a bipartisan group of members from US metropolitan centers. He was the top Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees Justice Department spending before stepping down Wednesday.
"The charges in the indictment against Congressman Chaka Fattah are deeply saddening," Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "Congressman Fattah has been a tireless and effective advocate for America's hard-working families across more than 20 years of distinguished service in the House."
Also charged were: lobbyist Herbert Vederman; Fattah's congressional district director, Bonnie Bowser; Robert Brand of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas of Williamstown, N.J.
This report includes materials from Reuters.