Political Consultant Sentenced to Five Years for Bribery of Allentown and Reading, PA Officials
PHILADELPHIA – Deputy U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen announced that the political consultant to then-Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, Michael Fleck, 40, formerly of Allentown, PA was sentenced today to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez. Fleck must also pay $134,487 in restitution. The defendant was immediately remanded to federal custody to begin serving his sentence. Fleck previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery offenses and one count of tax evasion.
Fleck was a principal and co-owner of an Allentown-based consulting company that conducted fundraising and other campaign-related services for certain elected officials in Pennsylvania (“the political clients”), and lobbied these same political clients on behalf of individuals and companies who sought contracts and other favorable treatment from local governments (“the business clients”).
Mayor Vaughn Spencer of Reading, Mayor Edwin Pawlowski and Controller Mary Ellen Koval of Allentown were each elected officials in their respective cities as well as Fleck’s political clients. Spencer and Koval sought re-election to the offices they held, while Pawlowski aspired to win higher office through statewide election. Each of these three elected officials attempted to leverage their respective public offices – which gave them actual and perceived authority over the awarding of municipal contracts – for items of value, including campaign contributions.
As part of the “consulting” services that Fleck provided, he helped facilitate quid pro quo solicitations, offers and agreements, and obtained tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from businesses and donors seeking to do business with the City of Allentown and the City of Reading for his political clients.
Fleck also filed fraudulent income tax returns for tax years 2011, 2012 and 2013, in which he concealed income from his consulting company of approximately $130,897.41, overstated certain deductions, and failed to remit approximately $43,467 in payroll taxes, causing a tax loss of approximately $77,738.
“Fleck manipulated our democratic systems of government to enrich himself and his associates at the expense of the citizens of Reading and Allentown,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Lappen. “In doing so, Fleck and the corrupt mayors with whom he conspired did tremendous damage to the confidence that our citizens have in their local governments. Our Office remains committed to uncovering and prosecuting public corruption at all levels. Public officials and their cronies should start getting the message that they must serve the public rather than satisfy themselves and their venal desires.”
“Compliance with the tax laws in the United States relies heavily on self-assessments of taxes owed,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco. “Michael Fleck took steps to prevent the assessment of his true tax liability; and the sentence he received shows how seriously the courts take federal tax crimes like this.”
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 Morgan and Anthony Wzorek.