Thursday, March 03, 2016
Feds Expected to Mount Full Court Press in Fed Ed Investigation
WFMZ-TV69 has published its entire interview with noted criminal defense lawyer Jack McMahon. I doubt very many of you have had the time to watch the entire 48-minute conversation with Jacci Farris. But I'm sure one person has. That would be Joe Khan, the Assistant United States Attorney handling the investigation into Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. Khan had been preoccupied in recent weeks because he was preparing another prosecution. But that matter was recently resolved, so McMahon picked a very poor time to try his case in the press.
From what I've been told, prosecutors had already decided it was time to intensify their investigation, and I expect to see a lot more activity in the coming weeks.
McMahon makes the following arguments:
1) Fed Ed cannot possibly have committed a crime with Northeast Revenue because they've done such a good job. - Last time I checked, it's no defense to claim that the outfit illegally hired has done a good job. And incidentally, various title agents I know have complained about the arrogance, unresponsiveness and general poor quality of the work Northeast Revenue has provided, both in Allentown and Lehigh County.
2) Ramzi Haddad received no benefit for his bribes. "He got nothing," claims McMahon. "Where is the crime?" He goes on to claim the the federal charging document makes no direct link between Fed Ed and Haddad, if you read it carefully. I did. It does.
According to the information, it is Fed Ed himself who promised to lean on a code enforcement officer to go easy on Haddad. It is Fed Ed himself who promised Haddad a favorable ruling in a zoning matter, and actually instructed a city employee to help him. McMahon claims that it is Miked Fleck, and not Fed Ed, who made promises. But the information avers that Fed Ed "directly" told Haddad that "items of value, including food, drinks, and campaign contributions, [were] a necessary condition for receiving certain favorable treatment from the City of Allentown." He was specifically directed by Pawlowski to pick up his tabs during "in-person interactions."
3) Favoritism towards Jack Rosen does not exist because no contract has been awarded. - Once again, there does not have to be a completed deal for pay-to-play to exist.
4) Fleck acted on his own, without Fed Ed's knowledge. - No doubt this is why Fleck was wired. This is why Fleck's business partner, Sam Ruchlewicz, was also wired. No prosecutor would seek an indictment without evidence that directly ties Fed Ed to the criminal scheme.
6) Fed Ed had told Fleck to make a decision between lobbying for businesses and political campaigns. - This claim is directly contradicted by a news account published 1 1/2 years before the federal investigation broke in which both Fed Ed and Fleck insisted they don't mix business and politics. It was also flatly contradicted by entrepreneur Abe Atiyeh, who was unable to do any business in Allentown until he hired Fleck.as a "consultant." After that, Allentown went broke paying more than double what two useless pieces of land were worth. The City paid him $1.4 million for property only valued at $580,000. The City was forced later that year to raise the earned income tax.
7) Burner phones and office sweeps for electronic bugs are no big deal. - "It's a long-standing mayoral tradition," McMahon said with a straight face. As blogger Chris Casey observes, "It is a long-standing mayoral tradition, in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, and New York City. Places where corruption has been known to run rampant." Here, not so much. This is what has hurt Fed Ed more than anything else because it shows criminal intent.
8) Fleck stole $70,000 on the day of the raid. - FEC records do show that Fleck paid himself that sum, and an amended filing claims it was never authorized. There was no report, at the time of the alleged theft, that Fleck took this money without authorization. He obviously had been provided access to the account.
9) City Council has prejudged Pawlowski - He calls their no-confidence vote "reprehensible." But he apparently failed to read the resolution. It specifically notes he is presumed innocent but needs to resign because the climate surrounding this investigation has made it impossible for him (and them) to govern.
10) "I will see Ed Pawlowski to the very end of this case and hopefully his vindication." - Fed Ed has spent $80,000 for his criminal defense, and has $183,000 left. It's likely he'll be able to use all of it to pay for his lawyers. When that money runs out, that will be the "very end" of this case for McMahon.