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Press Release

Former Allentown Finance Director Sentenced in Former Mayor Edwin Pawlowski’s Pay-to-Play Scheme

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

PHILADELPHIA – Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen announced that Garret Strathearn, former Allentown Finance Director, was sentenced today for his role in a pay-to-play bidding scheme involving former Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski.  United States District Judge Juan Sanchez sentenced Strathearn to 5 years’ probation, the first six months of which will be home confinement with electronic monitoring.  He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and a $100 special assessment.

Strathearn pleaded guilty in December 2016 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and later testified at Pawlowski’s trial in January 2018.  Strathearn admitted to playing a critical role in steering the city’s delinquent real estate tax collection contract to Pawlowski’s preferred vendor, Northeast Revenue, in contravention of the standard process employed by the city to award contracts.  In return for the contract, Northeast Revenue made political contributions to Pawlowski’s failed campaigns for Pennsylvania Governor and United States Senate.

In addition to Pawlowski, who was convicted at trial and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, Strathearn’s co-conspirators included the following individuals: Michael Fleck, a campaign consultant; James Hickey, a business consultant; Francis Dougherty, the Allentown Managing Director; and Dale Wiles; an Allentown Assistant City Solicitor.  These defendants all have pleaded guilty and similarly admitted to steering contracts to Pawlowski’s preferred vendors  

“Strathearn’s criminal conduct contributed to Ed Pawlowski’s pay-to-play business model, which Pawlowski brazenly operated out of the Allentown City Hall,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Lappen.  “Taxpayers have a right to expect that public officials have the interests of the entire city in mind, not just the interests of their political cronies.  And businesses have a right to expect that when they submit contract proposals, they will be judged on the merits rather than on the size of their campaign contributions.”

“The pay-to-play culture took root at Allentown City Hall,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.  “Garrett Strathearn admitted to subverting the city’s contracting process—put in place to ensure fairness—at Edwin Pawlowski’s direction. The FBI is determined to bring to justice corrupt officials willing to break the law to further their own interests.”

“The sentence handed down today underscores our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco.  “Those contemplating similar conduct should stop in their tracks and simply consider the consequences of taking the next step.” 

This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigations.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anthony J. Wzorek and Michelle L. Morgan.

Updated November 27, 2018

Public Corruption