Former Allentown official pleads guilty to conspiracy charges

 Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (left) and Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer (Images via Seven Points Consulting/Wikipedia Creative Commons and Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (left) and Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer (Images via Seven Points Consulting/Wikipedia Creative Commons and Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

A high-ranking former official in Allentown has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud as part of an FBI probe of government contracting in Pennsylvania’s third-largest city.

Former finance director Garret Strathearn of Sea Girt, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Philadelphia.

The charges involve a city contract for the collection of delinquent real estate taxes. Court documents allege that an elected city official seeking statewide office instructed Strathearn to manipulate the bidding process to favor a campaign donor. Court documents don’t name the official, but Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski ran for U.S. Senate this year. Pawlowski has not been charged.

Strathearn faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced April 14. Former Assistant City Solicitor Dale Wiles will be sentenced March 2.

In 2015, federal prosecutors launched investigations into Reading and Allentown city governments, saying officials in both cities traded favors for campaign contributions.

Since then, several city officials have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

Correction: A previous version of this story’s headline stated that Strathearn pleaded guilty to fraud. In fact, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. 

Keystone Crossroads reporter Marielle Segarra contributed to this story.

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