Entrepreneur Admits Paying Bribes To Allentown Public Official
PHILADELPHIA - Ramzi Haddad, 45, of Bethlehem, PA, pleaded guilty today to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery offenses, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. After accepting Haddad’s guilty plea, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduling a sentencing hearing for December 18, 2015.
During the guilty plea hearing, Haddad admitted the following:
The defendant was an entrepreneur who had business interests in Allentown, including potential contracts with the City of Allentown and the actual and prospective ownership of properties which were regulated and overseen by governing authorities in Allentown, including Public Official #3, who represented the City through an elective office. Public Official #3 aspired to win election to a statewide elective office. To achieve this goal, Public Official #3 knowingly sought campaign contributions in exchange for official actions that he took, attempted to take, and caused and attempted to cause the City of Allentown to take.
After repeated dealings with Public Official #3, the defendant concluded that he was intentionally acting against the defendant’s economic interests while favoring the economic interests of Public Official #3’s major donors and political allies. Concerned that Public Official #3 would otherwise interfere with and block his projects in Allentown, the defendant further concluded that the only way to receive a “fair shake” from Public Official #3 and public officials subordinate to him was to give Public Official #3 items of value, including food, drinks, and campaign contributions. Consequently, the defendant agreed to make contributions to the various campaigns of Public Official #3 when Public Official #3 or his campaign staff solicited campaign contributions. By December 2014, the defendant had explicitly agreed to give campaign contributions to Public Official #3 in exchange for certain official actions that the defendant expected from the City of Allentown. Over the course of the next few months, the defendant made numerous donations in exchange for certain official actions that he expected from the City of Allentown.
On April 17, 2015, Public Official #3 formally announced his candidacy for another elective office, this time for a position in federal government, during a campaign finance reporting period which would end on June 30, 2015. Before making this announcement, Public Official #3 had told the defendant about his plan to run for the federal office, explained his strategy of maximizing contributions prior to the end of the June 30 reporting period, and asked the defendant to raise money for the federal campaign by bundling his own contribution with the contributions of others. The defendant ultimately agreed to raise $25,000 for Public Official #3’s federal campaign before the June 30 deadline.
On May 18, 2015, Public Official #3 traveled from Allentown to New York City in order to meet with the defendant and discuss the official “help” that Public Official #3 could provide in return for the contributions that the defendant would raise for Public Official #3’s federal campaign. In consideration for the defendant’s fundraising commitment, Public Official #3 agreed to intervene with municipal inspections of one of the defendant’s buildings in Allentown.
On June 29, 2015, the defendant delivered to Public Official #3 approximately $15,000 in checks, all made payable to the federal campaign. Public Official #3 reminded the defendant of his pledge to raise a total of $25,000, advised that he bundle additional checks and “back date” them to a date prior to June 30, 2015, and restated his own ability to take official action which could affect the defendant. The next day, the defendant delivered to Public Official #3’s campaign staff two checks, totaling $6,500, both made payable to Public Official #3’s federal campaign. These checks were intended to replace a previous check which the defendant had delivered to Public Official #3 the day before
As part of his agreement with Public Official #3, the defendant, at Public Official #3’s request, also paid for the food and beverage bills when the two met to discuss the defendant’s business interests. During the course of exchanging campaign contributions for official action by Public Official #3, the defendant and Public Official #3 made numerous interstate phone calls and traveled between states, typically between New York and Pennsylvania. Public Official #3 took numerous steps to destroy or avoid creating any records that would show a linkage between his official actions and campaign contributions from donors such as the defendant. For example, on June 29, 2015, Public Official #3 instructed the defendant to immediately delete from his mobile telephone all text messages constituting evidence of the defendant discussing potential municipal contracts with Public Official #3’s campaign staff.
Haddad faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Allentown Resident Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, and IRS Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joe Khan and Nancy Beam Winter.