You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Convicted of Bribery and Wire Fraud

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that former Reading, PA Mayor Vaughn Spencer, 71, of Reading, PA was found guilty today by a jury of one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud, nine counts of bribery, and one count of honest services wire fraud.

The defendant was the former Mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania from January 2012 until January 2016.  The charges primarily stem from the contracting process in the City of Reading and the defendant’s bid for re-election to a second term.  In order to maximize campaign contributions for the Democratic primary in May 2015, the defendant steered engineering contracts to companies that had contributed to him in the past, and promised engineering contracts to companies who agreed to contribute to him in the future.  In a further effort to maximize campaign contributions, the defendant offered a bribe to the Reading City Council president, Francisco Acosta, by agreeing to give Acosta’s wife, Reading School District President Rebecca Acosta, a campaign contribution for her district justice race, in exchange for the Acostas’ efforts to secure the repeal of the local campaign finance limits ordinance, so that Spencer could retain contributions he already had received in excess of the limit. 

“Elected officials are entrusted to act in the best interests of their residents and not to use their office for their own personal gain,” stated U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “Former Mayor Spencer abdicated those duties and responsibilities when he bribed other local officials in order to collect additional political contributions for his re-election campaign.  If public officials do not play by the rules, then no one will.  We are thankful that the jury reached a fair and just verdict.”

“While Vaughn Spencer was only a one-term mayor, he's done lasting damage to the city of Reading by compromising the public trust,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division.  “Putting his own interests above those of the people he was elected to serve, he repeatedly engineered quid pro quos meant to pad his campaign coffers.  The jury's swift verdict is a testament to the strength of the government's case.  The FBI is committed to investigating public corruption and holding crooked officials accountable.”

“Today’s verdict underscores our commitment to work in a collaborative effort to promote honest and ethical government at all levels and to prosecute those who violate the public’s trust,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco.

“This case is a great example of hard work and cooperation between state, federal, and local agencies,” said Major Douglas Burig, Director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation with the Pennsylvania State Police.  “Citizens deserve honest work by the public officials that represent them and we thank everyone involved for ensuring justice has been served.”

The charge of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the charge of honest services wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and the charge of conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and Pennsylvania State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle Morgan and Anthony Wzorek.

Updated August 31, 2018