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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Former Reading Mayor Sentenced in Bribery Scheme

PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams announced that former Mayor of Reading, Vaughn Spencer, 71, of Reading, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today to 96 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $35,000 fine by the Honorable Juan R. Sanchez, Chief Judge, United States District Court.

Spencer was the Mayor of Reading from January 2012 until January 2016. He was convicted by a jury on August 31, 2018 on eleven counts of bribery solicitation and related offenses, stemming from a conspiracy to solicit campaign contributions from specific vendors for the May 2015 democratic primary in exchange for lucrative municipal engineering contracts.  T&M Associates and McTish Kunkle & Associates were among the engineering firms that engaged in this pay-to-play scheme. 

Spencer, his Special Assistant, Eron Lloyd, and his campaign manager, Michael Fleck, also conspired to pay an $1,800 bribe to Reading School Board President Rebecca Acosta, who was running for district justice at the time, in exchange for her help and her husband, City Council President Francisco Acosta, in persuading Reading City Council to repeal a local ordinance that set an annual limit on individual campaign contributions to persons running for city office.  Spencer pursued this because he was hoping to maximize his campaign contributions, and keep contributions he had already received well in excess of the limit. 

Francisco Acosta pled guilty and was sentenced to, and has already served, 24 months in prison, and Rebecca Acosta pled guilty and is currently serving an 18-month sentence of incarceration. Lloyd pled guilty and was sentenced to 5 years’ probation with the first 6 months on house arrest, and Mark Neisser of T&M pled guilty and was sentenced to 5 years’ probation with the first 12 months on house arrest and a $25,000 fine.  Fleck and Matthew McTish are scheduled to be sentenced on April 26, 2019.

“Spencer was so concerned with keeping his job, and the money to run a re-election campaign, that he forgot to do his job on behalf of the citizens of Reading,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams.  “He used the position that voters had entrusted to him for his personal benefit.  Our office is committed to uncovering and prosecuting public corruption, so officials should be on notice: if you abuse the powers of your office, the federal government is coming for you.”

“While mayor of Reading, Vaughan Spencer repeatedly sold off city contracts in an effort to cling to office,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Instead of working honestly on behalf of his constituents, he embraced these corrupt relationships and transactions for his own selfish benefit. The FBI is determined to root out the kickback culture seen all too frequently in this country's halls of power.”

“Spencer’s conscious decision to deceive and benefit personally at the expense of the citizens of Reading has cost him his liberty,” said Guy Ficco, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “Let his sentence serve as a stark reminder that if you commit a crime, status as a political leader will not protect you from federal prosecution.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle L. Morgan and Anthony J. Wzorek.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Contact: 
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106 JENNIFER CRANDALL Media Contact 215-861-8300
Updated April 24, 2019