Michael Fleck is the seventh person to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation of pay-to-play schemes in Pennsylvania cities.
A former political consultant to Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer has admitted to conspiracy and tax evasion.
Fleck and his political clients exchanged city contracts and other favors for campaign donations, says Joe Khan, Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Mr. Fleck admitted that he was part of a conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery, that is to trade items of value for official action from public officials,” Khan said.
Fleck also admitted to filing fraudulent income tax returns, including understating income from his consulting business, for several years. He paid nearly $78,000 less in taxes than he should have.
Last July, Fleck moved out of his home and shut down his consulting firm after FBI raids in the two cities.
He faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible fine.
The court documents don’t name Allentown Mayor Pawlowski or former Reading Mayor Spencer, and neither has been charged with a crime.
But throughout the investigation, the documents have described the public officials involved (Fleck’s clients) without naming them.
Public Official #1 has been described as a Reading elected official “who had the power to sign into law ordinances that had been passed by City Council,” as well as a candidate in the Democratic Party’s primary election in May 2015. Observers say only Spencer fits that description.
Public Official #3 has been described as an Allentown elected official who had control over certain municipal contracts and announced a bid for U.S. Senate on April, 17, 2015. As The Morning Call reports, Pawlowski is the only person who fits that description.
This time around, the court documents describe a meeting in which Fleck, Public Official #3, and others came up with a plan to extort campaign contributions from a law firm.
According to the documents, after hearing that a donor from the law firm might not be willing to make future contributions, Public Official #3 said: “Really! I’ve given him millions of dollars…. Relatively, compared to other law firms, they’ve given nothing. [Donor #4] for sure will get nothing now…. you know, f–k them! And I’m not gonna [award work to Donor #4’s law partner] or anything. Screw it all!”
Fleck told the official that he would “beat the crap out of” the donor by making it clear that the firm’s legal contracts were in jeopardy. The donor later agreed to solicit attorneys at the firm for donations, according to the documents.
Neither Pawlowski nor Spencer’s attorneys could be reached for comment. Pawlowski’s lawyers have previously denied wrongdoing on the mayor’s part.