A Philadelphia Political Hall of Shame
Below are some elected officials from Philadelphia who were involved in corruption cases, and were convicted or pleaded guilty or no contest. The list does not include judges.
PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Williams, who pleaded guilty in June to accepting a bribe from a Bucks County businessman, was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday, with U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond telling him that "you sold yourself to the parasites you surrounded yourself with." Williams' federal bribery trial revealed embarrassing details about his messy personal life and financial struggles, including stealing money set aside for his mother's nursing-home care.
Michael J. Myers
“Ozzie” Myers, elected in 1976 to represent South Philadelphia in Congress, was ensnared in the FBI’s Abscam sting in 1979. He was caught on videotape accepting a suitcase with $50,000 in cash from an FBI undercover agent masquerading as a bagman for a fictitious Arab sheikh. The tape also recorded Myers saying, “Money talks in this business, and bull- walks.” Myers was expelled from the House in 1980, convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges, and sentenced to three years in prison in 1981.
Raymond F. Lederer
Ray Lederer, from Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District, also was caught in the Abscam sting. Despite the corruption allegations, he won reelection in 1980, but resigned from Congress a year later after his conviction. Lederer served 10 months in prison, and died in his Fishtown childhood home in 2008.
Fattah, one of the region’s longest-serving members of Congress, was convicted in June of federal racketeering and bribery charges. Prosecutors painted the congressman as an arrogant lawbreaker who repeatedly turned to the money of others — taxpayers, charities, wealthy fund-raisers — to cover his personal and political debts. Fattah lost a reelection bid for a 12th term in office in April’s Democratic primary to State Rep. Dwight Evans. Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday, and is due to begin his prison term on Jan. 25.
Henry J. Cianfrani
“Buddy” Cianfrani pleaded guilty in 1977 to charges of racketeering, bribery, and obstruction of justice, and pleaded no contest to tax evasion for arranging no-work jobs on the Senate payroll, and for accepting bribes to influence the admission of students to medical and veterinary schools. Upon Cianfrani's release from prison in 1980, friends and political allies of the cigar-smoking power-broker with an earthy charm gave him a party at Palumbo’s in South Philadelphia. Cianfrani later became an influential South Philadelphia ward leader before his death in 2002.
Vincent J. Fumo
For decades, Vince Fumo was the top Philadelphia Democrat in the legislature. But in 2009, a federal jury found that he had defrauded the Senate and two nonprofit organizations, and staged a cover-up in a failed bid to thwart the FBI and federal prosecutors. Prosecutors said Fumo hired cronies for no-show state jobs, used taxpayer money to hire a private eye to spy on romantic and political rivals, and overpaid a big staff to illegally serve as his servants and political foot soldiers. In 2011 he was sentenced to 5 years, 1 month. Fumo was released from federal prison in August 2013, and began advising corporate clients on how to work the levers of government.
LeAnna M. Washington
LeAnna Washington, a Democrat who represented parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, pleaded guilty to felony conflict of interest charges in 2014. Prosecutors alleged Washington used her staff to plan her annual birthday party campaign fund-raisers from 2005 to 2013, using up to $100,000 in taxpayer money for political gain. A grand jury report said Washington berated her chief of staff when he questioned the propriety of ordering staffers to do political work on government time. “I am the f-ing senator, I do what the f- I want, and ain't nobody going to change me,” she told him.
John M. Perzel
John Perzel, a Republican from Northeast Philadelphia and a former House speaker, was sentenced in 2012 to 30 to 60 months in prison for his role as the mastermind of a scheme to use taxpayer-paid computer programs to win political campaigns. Perzel pleaded guilty and said at sentencing: “I embarrassed myself, my family, my friends, the people of Pennsylvania, and I am truly sorry.”
Ronald D. Waters, Michelle F. Brownlee, Louise Williams Bishop, and Harold James
The four Philadelphia Democrats were caught in a sting operation taking money or gifts from a lobbyist in exchange for official favors. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, a Democrat, secretly ended the sting operation in 2013 without bringing any criminal charges. She said the investigation was poorly handled and biased in targeting African Americans. The case was later resurrected by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
Ron Waters accepted $8,750 in payments and was captured on tape after pocketing one payment of $1,000 saying, “Happy birthday to Ron Waters.” He pleaded guilty in 2015 to nine counts of conflict of interest and was sentenced to 23 months on probation.
Harold James received two money orders worth a total of $750 in campaign contributions. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of conflict of interest and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation.
Michelle Brownlee was charged with accepting $2,000 in cash. She pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of violating the state's conflict-of-interest law and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation.
Louise Bishop, a longtime radio personality who was elected to the House 13 times, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in December 2015. Like the three other House members charged in the sting case, she resigned from office but kept her taxpayer-paid pension.
George X. Schwartz
George Schwartz was a city councilman for 20 years and was Council president for eight, but his career began to unravel when he was caught on tape accepting $30,000 from undercover FBI agents in the Abscam corruption sting. Promising to use his influence to sway other Council members, Schwartz said, “We got five or six members. You tell me your birthday. I'll give them to you for your birthday.” Schwartz was convicted in 1980 of conspiracy and extortion, and spent one year in prison. He died in 2010.
Two other Council members, Harry P. Jannotti and Louis C. Johanson, were also nabbed in the Abscam sting. Johanson spent a year in prison for pocketing part of a $50,000 bribe. Jannotti did more than four months for taking $10,000.
Leland M. Beloff
Lee Beloff resigned from Council in 1987 after being convicted in federal court of extortion in a plot with former mob boss Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo to extort $1 million from developer Willard M. Rouse III. He was paroled in 1994 after serving five years of a 10-year prison sentence.
James J. Tayoun
Jimmy Tayoun was charged in 1991 with 10 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice in connection with the payment and receipt of money in exchange for political favors. Tayoun avoided trial by pleading guilty days after his indictment. He spent 40 months in prison. Tayoun wrote a how-to book about serving time, and until 2016 owned and operated a weekly newspaper in South Philadelphia.
Richard T. Mariano
Rick Mariano was convicted in 2006 of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, fraud and tax charges for accepting nearly $30,000 from businessmen in exchange for regulatory favors, tax breaks, cheap city land, and a suspect schools contract. He was sentenced in 2006 to 6 years, 6 months.
Story: Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams pleads guilty in his federal corruption trial