Courts & Crime

An aide’s guilty plea implicates veteran Philly congressman

– A former aide to Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to federal agents and attempting to conceal the misuse of campaign funds during Fattah’s 2007 mayoral bid in a case that appears to have led investigators to Fattah’s doorstep.

The aide, Gregory Naylor, admitted conspiring with his boss, identified only as “Elected Official A,” to pay down portions of the politician’s college debt by illegally using federal and local campaign funds, the Justice Department said.

Although Chaka Fattah wasn’t identified by name in papers made public in federal court in Philadelphia Tuesday, FBI and IRS agents have been investigating Fattah and his family for years. Fattah disclosed in March that prosecutors had subpoenaed documents from his congressional office, and he vowed to fight the subpoenas.

In April, his son, Chaka Fattah, Jr., was charged with fraud and filing false tax returns. The younger Fattah has sued the IRS for $1 million in damages, alleging that the agency’s excessive enforcement action has upended his life. Fattah, Jr. was forced to give up his home in a luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Philadelphia and ran up heavy gambling debts, according to published reports.

Fattah, a 10th-term House member, is the ranking Democrat on a House appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Justice Department.

Allison Freeman, a spokeswoman for the congressman, expressed surprise when asked about Naylor’s plea and declined immediate comment.

Naylor’s plea stemmed from his role in two campaign finance-related schemes allegedly initiated by his boss and longtime friend, widely known to be Rep. Fattah. Prosecutors said that Naylor helped conceal the theft of federal grant funds and private charitable donations, which were used to repay an illegal campaign debt incurred by Fattah – “Elected Official A” – during a 2007 campaign for elected office.

Naylor acknowledged helping to conceal the source of the money by preparing a false invoice from his political consulting firm. Naylor later learned, the Justice Department said, that Fattah and others diverted the federal grant funds to repay the campaign debt, and he agreed to falsify campaign reports to hide the scheme.

In the second scheme, to cover college debt, some of the payments originated directly from the local campaign fund – Fattah’s 2007 mayoral campaign -- and some were illegally withdrawn from Fattah’s congressional campaign fund and channeled to Naylor through his mayoral campaign, prosecutors said.

They said that, between 2007 and 2011, Naylor made about $22,000 in improper payments at the request of the politician widely known to be Fattah.

Naylor also falsely claimed on IRS forms that Fattah, Jr. had worked for his consulting firm as an independent contractor, and that payments toward the son’s college debt reflected income owed him, prosecutors said.

When federal agents confronted Naylor about the payments, he lied on two occasions, describing Fattah’s son as an independence contractor, prosecutors said.