DA Seth Williams' prime target — his mother's money, feds say

Seth Williams announces his run for district attorney in 2005. With him are, from left: daughter Alyssia, 17; daughter Taylor, 5; wife, Sonitha (partially obscured) and at right, his mother, Imelda Williams.

One allegation of corruption stands out in federal prosecutors' description of how Philadelphia DA Seth Williams wheeled and dealed. 

He allegedly stole from his own 84-year-old ailing mother.

In fact, of the $54,500 he gleaned through his alleged corrupt ways, 37 percent of it was money earmarked to care for her. 

Williams unlawfully reached into the bank account of Imelda Williams, siphoning more than $20,319 promised for her nursing-home care, according to Tuesday's grand jury indictment of Williams. The grand jury charged Williams with six counts of wire fraud, alleging that he used the money for restaurant tabs, mortgage payments, and other personal expenses. 

While the indictment says Williams took money from an unnamed relative, people familiar with the investigation have identified the relative as his mother, Imelda.

In a tweet a year ago, Williams revealed that his mother had Parkinson’s disease. Monday he tweeted: "Please support the #phillyrabbitrun @phillyzoo. My mom and thousands are battling #Parkinsons and need $$$ to find a cure."   

The mother now lives at St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare, in Darby. It was not immediately clear if that is the unnamed nursing home that figures in the criminal case.

Williams, 50, who is paid $175,572 per year as district attorney, was abandoned as an infant in an orphanage and adopted at age 2 by Imelda and Rufus Williams, a schoolteacher who died in 2001. An only child, he credited his success at campaign events to "two loving adoptive parents." 

He is charged with two schemes to divert money intended for his mother to his personal use. 

In the first one, the grand jury said, Williams took $10,319 from his mother’s bank account in 2012, using the money to pay his mortgage and for electrical work at his home.  His mother, who had worked as a secretary at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, was periodically receiving pension and Social Security checks.

When Imelda Williams was admitted to the nursing home in February 2012, the indictment says, Williams signed a form pledging that, as the “responsible person” for his mother, he had access to her income and would apply it exclusively for her needs, especially the cost of the facility.

 In May 2012, the government said, “to conceal his diversion of these funds," Williams falsely told nursing-home employees that his mother — and not he — had been spending money in the account.

In the second alleged scheme, according to the grand jury, friends of Williams' wrote him a check for $10,000 in October 2013 to help with the cost of Imelda Williams’ nursing-home care.   The government said Seth Williams instead “spent the entire $10,000 for his own personal benefit."  Among other purchases, the money was depleted with cash withdrawals, restaurant tabs, mortgage payments, and tuition. 

Williams' predecessor, Lynne Abraham, long a political foe, said Wednesday: “If those allegations are true, that to me is the lowest thing that a person can do, steal from your aged and infirm mother. That just gets me right in the throat.”

The friends who provided the $10,000 are not named in the indictment. When Williams belatedly filed amended financial-disclosure forms last summer,  he declared that Luther and Sylvia Randolph had given him $10,000 in October 2013 for his "mother's medical expenses and other personal expenses."

Luther Randolph, 81, a musician who played organ, was part of Philadelphia’s soul-music scene in the 1960s. Randolph, along with guitarist Johnny Stiles and singer/producer Weldon McDougal III, formed a trio under their own names and founded the soul record label Harthon. Randolph and Stiles were involved in putting out hit singles, including “Yes, I’m Ready” by Barbara Mason. He and Stiles had a success with a single under their own names, "Cross Roads."  

Reporters recently left written and phone messages at a Randolph residence but received no reply. Imelda Williams declined to talk to a reporter who visited her at the St.  Francis home.

Staff writers Dylan Purcell and Craig R. McCoy contributed to this article. 

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