PHILADELPHIA—Former US Representative Chaka Fattah was sentenced on Monday, December 12 to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of stealing government and charity funds in order to buy a vacation home and pay off his son’s debts. The judge at Fattah’s trial said he was “astonished” a veteran legislator, such as Chaka, could commit such corruption.
Fattah spent nearly two decades in Congress working on gun control, housing, education, and other issues in the Philadelphia district he represented.
Fattah and his TV anchor wife had an annual income over $500,000 year. His finances became an issue of concern during his run for mayor in 2007 failed. Campaign spending limits pushed him to take an illegal loan of $1 million from a friend.
A few days before his trial, Fattah lost the spring primary. Following his conviction in June 2016, he resigned from office.
The jury found Fattah took the $1 million loan from the chairman of the student loan corporation SallieMae. He returned $400,000 of the loan and repaid more of the loan with federal grant money he had steered into an education non-profit, including a NASA-funded mobile science classroom, run by former aides.
Fattah said he “respected the court’s decision” in a brief statement as he left court Monday.
He told the judge of his mixed emotions while waiting for his sentence and was sad to find himself in this position, but grateful for what help he brought over 37 years as a state and federal lawmaker.
“I’ve helped tens of millions of people,” said Fattah. “[That] has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury.”
The jury found Fattah placed $23,000 in non-profit funds toward his son’s loans for school. He also took a $18,000 bribe to aid a friend in becoming an ambassador. The bribe went towards a down payment for a vacation home. Fattah has been ordered to repay both Sallie Mae and NASA $600,000.
Four co-defendants who aided Fattah in the movement of money will be sentenced in the coming week. Fattah plans to appeal the conviction.