A Philadelphia congressman's son was accused Tuesday of stealing federal funds meant for city schools, fraudulently obtaining business loans and using the ill-begotten money on lavish personal expenses, including large gambling debts.
Both the father and son questioned the integrity of the case, which the son, Chaka Fattah Jr., called "politically motivated."
The younger Fattah, 31, was charged in an indictment with bank and wire fraud, theft from a federal program and filing false tax returns. Speaking as he left the courthouse on $50,000 bail, he said the two-year investigation had ruined his reputation and his consulting career.
"This entire situation is politically motivated," Fattah said. "If my dad wasn't the congressman, nobody would be going after me."
His father, 10-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, did not attend his son's brief court hearing but said in a statement he was confident he would be vindicated. He said the involvement of Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray and FBI Special Agent Richard J. Haag "raise concerns about the fair administration of justice in this case."
His office said he would not elaborate, and the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on his statement.
The congressman himself has been the subject of a long-running federal investigation. In March, the elder Fattah said he would seek to quash a subpoena he received for documents from his congressional offices; Haag was involved in the issuance of that subpoena. Gray declined to comment Tuesday on whether the two investigations were linked.
The indictment accuses the younger Fattah of lying about his income to obtain more than $200,000 in business loans.
Prosecutors said he used one $50,000 loan, intended "for working capital to support business operations," to pay more than $15,000 in credit card debt and pay off more than $33,000 in casino gambling debt.
He also is charged with theft of federal funds from the city school district, filing false income tax returns in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009, and failing to pay $51,000 in taxes on time in 2010.
He had two consulting companies, 259 Strategies and Chaka Fattah Jr. & Associates, which he billed as providing educational consulting, diversity consulting, audit services, technical assistance and community relations, along with research and computer consulting, the indictment said.
Fattah said he was self-employed, and could therefore move money as he pleased from business to personal accounts.
"If I want to do something with that money, it's up to me. If I want to buy a new suit, I can (do that). I can do anything I want," he said. "This is America."
In the filing of the theft charge, the government said he inflated expenses related to at least $930,000 in federal funds he received for a charter school program for at-risk middle school students.
"I was at work every single day. For anybody to think that I didn't earn the $450,000 on that (one) contract, well, they're just wrong," Fattah said.
He has a lawsuit pending against the IRS over a 2012 search of his Philadelphia home that he said had ruined him because of the related news coverage.
Fattah, Jr. is the stepson of NBC10 news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah.