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Press Release

Allentown Mayor Charged in Pay to Play Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – A federal indictment1 was unsealed today charging Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, 52, of Allentown, for alleged violations of federal public corruption laws, announced Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. The indictment charges Pawlowski with 14 counts of bribery, 9 counts of mail fraud, 9 counts of wire fraud, 6 counts of honest services wire fraud, 2 counts of honest services mail fraud, 3 counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, 3 counts of travel act bribery, 7 counts of making material false statements, and conspiracy. Scott Allinson, 55, of Allentown, and James Hickey, 54, of Allentown, were also included on the indictment. Allinson was charged with 1 count of bribery and conspiracy. Hickey was charged with 4 counts of wire fraud, 2 counts of mail fraud, 4 counts of honest services wire fraud, 2 counts of honest services mail fraud, and conspiracy.

According to allegations contained in the indictment, Pawlowski was potentially involved in illegal activities associated with his position as a Mayor of Allentown. Today’s announcement is the culmination of a several year investigation involving the pleas of 10 others. Among those who have plead are former Allentown City Officials and businesspersons seeking contracts with the city of Allentown.

The indictment alleges that Pawlowski accepted the bribes on numerous separate occasions. According to the indictment, Pawlowski allegedly accepted over $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for the use of his official position. Among the most notable of the explicit quid pro quo examples is a three million dollar contract awarded to an engineering firm.

“The mayor of Allentown and the former mayor of Reading charged in the two indictments unsealed today sold their offices to the highest bidder -- violating the trust and confidence of the citizens of their cities,” said Acting United States Attorney Louis Lappen. “Both mayors, working with other corrupt officials and businesspeople, directed lucrative contracts to companies who agreed to provide campaign contributions in exchange for work. In an astounding act of irony, former Mayor Spencer bribed the President of City Council to introduce legislation repealing a Reading anti-corruption statute. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute public officials who operate these “pay to play” schemes.

"As alleged in these indictments, 'pay to play' was the order of the day in Allentown, and in Reading," said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division, "with those cities' mayors manipulating the levers of power for their own ways and means. As charged, Edwin Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer brazenly and repeatedly sold off city contracts to bankroll their political futures. This years-long investigation illuminated troubling conduct for which all of those indicted must now answer. The FBI is committed to fighting public corruption, which erodes the trust of 'we the people' and cheapens our cherished democracy."

“Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) is diligent in unraveling the fraudulent actions of those, such as Edwin Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer, who scheme to defraud citizens of Allentown and Reading who placed their trust in him,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd of IRS-CI’s Philadelphia Field Office. IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to be a member of the formidable team that is rooting out public corruption. “Today’s indictment is a reminder that there are detrimental consequences for this type of criminal behavior.”

The charge of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud, and attempted Hobbs Act all carry an individual maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and the charges of conspiracy, travel act bribery and making material false statements all carry an individual maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and Pennsylvania State Police.

1An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated July 26, 2017

Public Corruption