Chaka Fattah, a former U.S. Representative and Democrat, was born in Philadelphia, raised by a family of activists. Once grown, Fattah himself became an avid gun control activist, spending some 20 years in Congress working on gun control. While doing so, Fattah and his wife, who worked as a TV anchor, made a handsome annual salary of a half million dollars.
On Monday, Fattah was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for embezzling funds from the government and charities to pay off his son’s debts and to purchase a vacation home for him and his wife. The judge who decided the case said he was “astonished” that a veteran legislator would do this. In 2007, Fattah ran for mayor and lost, primarily because he had campaign spending issues that led him to take an illegal $1 million loan from a friend. Problems arose when his friend wanted his money back.
Fattah lost in the primary just days before his trial and following his June conviction he did resign his seat. The “friend” that the gun control activist took the huge loan from was the chairman of Sallie Mae, the student loan corporation. He returned $400,000 of it and repaid some of the rest with federal grant money he had steered to an education nonprofit run by former aides. Fattah was ordered Monday to repay $600,000 to Sallie Mae and NASA.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle said, “For someone so interested in advancing education for the disadvantaged, you had the temerity to steal from the Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit supported by government funds. While you have done much good, you also engaged in grave and widespread criminal activity.”
The jury also found that Fattah used the money on campaign and personal expenses. He put $23,000 in nonprofit funds toward his son’s college loans and took an $18,000 bribe to try to help a friend become an ambassador. Fattah and his wife used that money for a down payment on a Poconos vacation home. Fattah claims he is innocent and the Department of Justice had been out to get him and his family for years. He plans to appeal the conviction. The gun control-loving Congressman’s son is serving a five-year prison term in an overlapping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr. was convicted of using fraudulently obtained business loans to luxurious lifestyle.
Fattah told the judge, as he was waiting to be sentenced, that he had mixed emotions. He said he was sad that he is in court but also grateful that he was able to serve for 37 years on his many endeavors, including gun control. 60 year old Fattah said, “I’ve helped tens of millions of people. This has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury.”