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Press Release

Former Allentown Mayor Sentenced in Pay-to-Play Scheme

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

PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Edwin Pawlowski, the former Mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today for his role in an extensive pay to play scheme occurring between 2012 and 2015.  Chief United States District Judge Juan A. Sanchez sentenced Pawlowski to 180 months’ imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Chief Judge Sanchez ordered the former mayor to report to prison immediately following the hearing.

Pawlowski was the Mayor of Allentown from January 1, 2006, until his resignation on March 8, 2018.  A federal jury convicted him on March 1, 2018 of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud, bribery, and Travel Act bribery; 11 counts of bribery/soliciting; two counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion; six counts of mail fraud; nine counts of wire fraud; two counts of honest services mail fraud; six counts of honest services wire fraud; three counts of Travel Act bribery; and seven counts of material false statements to the FBI.  

Pawlowski’s co-conspirators included the following individuals, all of whom previously pleaded guilty: Michael Fleck, a campaign consultant; Garrett Strathearn, Allentown Director of Finance; James Hickey, a business consultant; Francis Dougherty, the Allentown Managing Director; and Dale Wiles; an Allentown Assistant City Solicitor.  These defendants steered contracts to companies who would contribute money to Pawlowski’s failed campaigns to become the Governor of Pennsylvania and then to become a United States Senator.  In addition to taking campaign contributions to fund his campaigns, Pawlowski’s steering of City of Allentown contracts worth more than $5,000,000 defrauded other companies bidding on these contracts under the assumption that the contracting process would be fair and honest. When questioned by the FBI about his actions in July 2015, Pawlowski lied about what he knew and what he had done.    

“Pawlowski’s actions eroded the trust that citizens should have in their government,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “Taxpayers have a right to expect that their elected officials are acting in the interests of the entire city and not for their own personal advancement.  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.”

Williams further said that “[e]very public official and every business development person seeking municipal contracts must understand the serious consequences that result from engaging in a bribery and fraud scheme rather than fair and honest competition.”

“Ed Pawlowski sold the city of Allentown out,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.  “He used his position as mayor to further his political career, coolly embracing the practice of ‘pay to play.’  Though his actions have sorely betrayed the public trust, Pawlowski has expressed neither regret nor remorse.  The FBI will never stop investigating public corruption and bringing to justice those toxic officials willing to break the law.”

“Today’s sentencing confirms that public officials who break the rules and violate the public’s trust will be held accountable for their actions,” said Guy Ficco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation.  “The Special Agents of IRS-CI remain committed to rooting out public corruption in an attempt to promote honest and ethical government on behalf of America’s law-abiding taxpayers.” 

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 October 23, 2018