Philly DA Accused of Misusing PAC Funds, Government Vehicles in New Indictment - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Philly DA Accused of Misusing PAC Funds, Government Vehicles in New Indictment

Philly District Attorney is now accused of misusing PAC funds and government vehicles, according to a new indictment.

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    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams faces additional charges in a new indictment which accuses him of misusing PAC funds and government vehicles. NBC10's Brandon Hudson has the details.

    (Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017)

    Philadelphia's top prosecutor was indicted Tuesday on additional fraud charges after he was accused of using political action committee (PAC) funds and official government vehicles for his own personal benefit.

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, 50, is now charged with using campaign funds to support a lifestyle that included expensive dinners, facials and massages and health club costs. The new indictment Tuesday also says he regularly used city vehicles for his family's personal use.

    Williams was initially charged in a 23-count indictment in March for bribery. His superseding indictment now contains 29 counts.

    Officials say the new charges are related to the "Friends of Seth Williams," also known as "The Committee to Elect Seth Williams," a political action committee that accepted contributions to support Williams' campaigns for public office. Under law, PAC funds are only allowed to be used in relation to political campaigns.

    Williams allegedly defrauded the PAC by using its funds for personal expenses between August, 2010 and August, 2016. Williams concealed this by providing false or incomplete reports to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, according to the indictment.

    During one instance, between August, 2010 and September, 2010, the PAC disbursed two checks to a political consultant which totaled about $4,136.59, officials said. The memo line on the checks falsely stated, "Political Consulting," according to the indictment. Williams allegedly obtained checks from the political consultant's account and deposited them into his own bank account. Officials say he received $4,036.59 of the total amount and used the money for personal expenses.

    Williams also allegedly used the PAC's debit card to pay for personal expenses not related to any election between October, 2011 and May, 2015, including dinner parties and family events. The expenses included a New Year's Eve celebration at a social club with his girlfriend, a facial and massage, a birthday party and a health club membership, according to the indictment.

    The new indictment also states Williams used official vehicles provided by the City of Philadelphia and a federal narcotics law enforcement program for his own personal benefit. Some of the vehicles were obtained through grants provided by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, officials said. The program's purpose was to reduce illegal drug trafficking and production in the United States.

    As a member of the Executive Board for the HIDTA of Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, Williams assigned HIDTA vehicles to detectives in its Dangerous Drug Offender Unit (DDOU) which conducted narcotics investigations with federal and state HIDTA partners. Vehicles owned or leased by those organizations cannot be used for personal purposes.

    Williams allegedly used both city and HIDTA vehicles for his own personal use during non-working hours. In some instances he used the vehicles to take himself, friends, family and non-employees around and also used them for personal trips outside Philadelphia, according to the indictment. The indictment also states Williams didn't incur any expenses during his personal use of the vehicles. Williams' use of the vehicles also reduced the number available to members of the DDOU for narcotics investigations.

    Along with the new charges, Williams is also accused of taking more than $100,000 in cash, trips and luxury gifts from several businessmen as he struggled financially after a divorce. He has belatedly acknowledged taking more than $175,000 in gifts but insists he never promised any legal favors in return.

    Prosecutors say he agreed to help two bar owners resolve a liquor license problem and help a businessman who made frequent trips to the Mideast clear security at Philadelphia International Airport. 

    He was indicted on the initial charges on March 22. He remains in the $175,000-a-year job, but his law license has been suspended and he is not seeking a third term. Seven Democrats and a Republican are jostling to succeed him in the wide-open May 16 primary.

    The office has 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff who handle 75,000 criminal cases a year in the city of 1.5 million people.

    Williams, who is also charged with defrauding his elderly mother of $20,000, recently put his $450,000 home up for sale. The listing describes a new roof Williams admits having installed by one benefactor and shows off what looks like the $3,200 custom "chocolate" couch bestowed, according to the indictment, by another.

    Federal authorities say they don't plan to delay Williams' scheduled May 31 trial, despite the new charges against him. NBC10 reached out to Williams' defense attorney Thomas Burke for comment.

    "All the information that forms the basis of these new charges, the federal government has had months and years in some cases," Burke said. "I question why these charges were not brought in the original indictment."

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    District Attorney Seth Williams has been indicted for taking briberies in exchange for favors. NBC10 Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher uncovered a new reason why FBI agents are looking into Philadelphia’s top law enforcer.

    (Published Tuesday, May 2, 2017)