One of City Councilman Jack Kelly's most generous campaign contributors, Ravinder Chawla, was just sentenced in federal court to 30 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release, along with a $25,000 fine, according to Michael Hinkelman of the Daily News. Chawla was convicted in February along with Chris Wright, Kelly's former chief of staff, and Andy Teitelman, Kelly's one-time campaign manager.
A federal jury found that Chawla, a real estate developer and Teitelman, his attorney, bribed Wright with a free apartment and legal services in return for help on matters in City Hall. Chawla's brother, Hardeep, was acquitted.
A line-up of Chawla supporters today asked U.S. District Justice Eduardo Robreno for mercy, citing his generosity toward friends and the unfortunate. Chawla was seeking community service or home confinement but Robreno said anyone caught "lining the pockets" of a city official was going to jail.
Wright was sentenced last month to four years in prison. He is due to surrender in two weeks but his attorney has filed a motion asking Robreno to allow him to remain free on bail while he appeals. Teitelman's sentencing date has been postponed twice and a new date has not been set.
Kelly secretly recorded a telephone conversation with Wright and a face-to-face meeting with Chawla for FBI agents. Those tapes were played during the trial when Kelly testified against his former political allies.
DEVELOPER SENTENCED TO 30 MONTHS FOR BRIBING COUNCILMAN’S FORMER AIDE
PHILADELPHIA - Ravinder Chawla, 59, of Abington, PA, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison and a $25,000 fine for conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud, honest services mail fraud, and mail fraud, announced United States Attorney Michael L. Levy. Chawla, who is a real estate developer, was convicted at trial last February with Christopher Wright, who was serving as chief of staff to a Philadelphia city council member when he committed his crimes. Chawla and another co-defendant, attorney Andrew Teitelman, gave Wright a free apartment and free legal services, valued at more than $20,000, in exchange for special treatment.
In May 2006, Chawla and Teitelman, aware that Wright needed a place to live because of marital and financial difficulties, offered him the opportunity to live rent-free in a Delancey Street apartment in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square area; an offer which Wright accepted. Chawla and Teitelman then implemented a scheme to place Wright in the apartment, which came with a free parking space, by playing the real estate version of a “shell game” with sellers and buyers of the building to ensure that Wright continued to live rent-free. In March 2007, Wright sent an e-mail about a real estate project to Ravinder Chawla and signed it, “Your Public Servant.”
In rendering his sentence, United States District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno said that the central lesson of this case and the message that must be sent is that if you are a developer and bribe a public official, you will go to jail. Teitelman’s sentencing hearing is not yet scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Bresnick and Jennifer Arbittier Williams.