A federal judge has sentenced Chaka Fattah Jr. to five years in prison for what prosecutors describe as a wide-reaching fraud scheme.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle was unsparing Tuesday in his remarks to Fattah, the son of 11-term U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah. He said the younger Fattah has had opportunities in life most young men his age can only dream of, and that he abused them.
“You cannot claim hardship or disadvantaged upbringing. You cannot claim the pressures of the street, or just getting in with the wrong crowd,” Bartle said. “You made a plethora of bad choices of your own free will, and made greed and hardness of heart to govern your actions.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray told Bartle that Fattah’s lies to obtain bank loans, running a shell company to enrich himself and defrauding many entities, including the Philadelphia School District, were never refuted during the three-week trial.
The judge ordered Fattah pay back $1.1 million to the victims of his fraudulent activities.
Fattah, 33, a college dropout, represented himself against seasoned federal prosecutors.
In November, a jury convicted Fattah of 22 out of 23 counts of bank and tax fraud.
Over the course of seven years, prosecutors said, Fattah falsified bank loans under a sham company called 259 Strategies, writing that the lines of credit were for “working capital.” In fact, he was using the funds to make car payments as well as paying down other debt, including gambling losses, authorities said.
The FBI caught Fattah in a secret recording saying, “It’s not about the credit lines. It’s figuring out how to make money and having fun.” Prosecutors brought up the statement again at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.
Fattah also stole money from the federal government that was given to the Philadelphia School District intended for a counseling program for at-risk students. Fattah inflated salaries, then lied on budget reports and pocket the proceeds.
Prosecutor Gray said after the sentencing that the jury’s verdict affirmed that Fattah lied and cheated to the IRS and defrauded the Philadelphia School District.
“The jury’s verdict has done away with the charade that Mr. Fattah was a legitimate businessman,” Gray said. “The judge agreed that the conduct and the crimes against Mr. Fattah was overwhelming.”
Gray said during the trial, Fattah “craved the media spotlight,” and this his remarks often illustrated that he had “hostility and disdain” for the serious charges he was facing.
Addressing the judge, Fattah, who throughout the trial has steadfastly maintained his innocence, said he “said things I shouldn’t have” when he was being secretly recorded by the FBI, but that he never once knew he was breaking the law.
The case against him, Fattah said, damaged his life.
“I’ve lost friends, money, my reputation,” Fattah said.
Federal authorities took Fattah into custody immediately after his sentence. Without much of an expression, Fattah was walked out of the courtroom.
After the hearing, Congressman Fattah said the family will persevere.
“I am a person of great faith,” Fattah said. “And our family is stronger than any of the forces that are arrayed against us. And there will be a different day, and a different result.”
Chip Fattah, in a phone conversation on Monday, said he intended to appeal the conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.