PHILADELPHIA (WTXF/AP) - Former Rep. Chaka Fattah has been sentenced to 10 years for misspending government grants and charity money to fund his campaign and personal expenses. He said he was saddened to find himself in court for sentencing in his criminal case but grateful for the work he was able to do.
He's due to surrender in prison on Jan. 25, 2017.
The Philadelphia Democrat spent two decades in Congress. His sentencing hearing lasted about 90 minutes.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle called the Philadelphia Democrat's crimes "astonishing" given that he and his TV anchor wife had a $500,000 annual income that put them at or near the "top 1 percent."
Fattah, 60, was convicted of misspending government grants and charity money to fund his campaign and personal expenses.
The jury found the now-ousted congressman took an illegal $1 million loan to prop up a failed 2007 run for Philadelphia mayor. Fattah then repaid it with funds that included NASA grant money steered through an education nonprofit run by former staffers.
Prosecutors say he also used $27,000 in charity funds to pay down his son's college loans and took an $18,000 bribe to help a friend become an ambassador.
The nonprofit efforts -- including a NASA-funded mobile science classroom emblazoned with Fattah's name that roamed Philadelphia during the mayoral campaign -- helped promote Fattah's political career, prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.
The jury convicted him of leading a five-person racketeering enterprise that included the loyal aides and political consultants who did his bidding, comingling campaign, nonprofit and government funds and using them as directed for Fattah's personal and political needs.
For example, Fattah used $23,000 in nonprofit funds to repay his son's college loans and took an $18,000 bribe to try to help a friend become an ambassador. He even lobbied President Barack Obama on the friend's behalf, to no avail. Fattah and his wife used the $18,000 for a down payment on a Poconos vacation home. They told authorities the money covered the friend's purchase of a Porsche owned by Fattah's wife, but the Porsche never left their garage.
Fattah told Bartle he "helped tens of millions of people" during his 37-year political career that focused on housing, education and other programs for his low-income district.
He said he was sorry the jury "found him on the wrong side of these questions" and apologized to the four aides and friends convicted with him.
His lawyers plan to appeal the 18-count conviction.
Fattah had insisted the Justice Department racketeering case was politically motivated, that fellow Democrats had been out to get him and his family for years.
His son, Chaka Fattah Jr. is serving a five-year prison term in an overlapping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., who never finished college, was convicted of using fraudulently obtained business loans to fund his jet-set lifestyle.
Fattah, who earned $174,000 as a congressman, is married to longtime Philadelphia news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. They have two school-age children. Chenault-Fattah, who is also a lawyer, spent 25 years with WCAU-TV before she resigned after the indictment named her a participant in the bribery scheme. She was never charged and has denied wrongdoing.
Two of Fattah's political consultants pleaded guilty in the case and testified against him. The four others convicted at trial will be sentenced later this week. They include former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, of Palm Springs, Florida, who had sought the ambassadorship.
Prosecutors were set to ask U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle to sentence Fattah to 17 to 21 years in prison. They also wanted more than $600,000 in restitution and forfeiture from the Fattah-led group.
Fattah, who began his career in the Pennsylvania statehouse and entered Congress in 1995, lost the spring Democratic primary days before his trial began and resigned after his conviction in June. Former state Rep. Dwight Evans, a fellow Democrat, now holds his seat.