Two former city government officials pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy charges in an FBI probe of government contracting in northeast Pennsylvania.
Federal authorities announced the charges and immediate pleas from former aides to Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer.
Dale Wiles, a former assistant solicitor, followed Pawlowski's orders when he steered a tax collection contract to the mayor's campaign donors instead of the top vendor, federal prosecutors said in court filings.
Eron Lloyd, a former special assistant to Spencer, took part in a similar scheme in Reading designed to reward Vaughn's donors, authorities say.
The pleas in federal court in Philadelphia follow separate FBI searches of municipal offices in both cities. Neither mayor was named in the charges announced Monday.
Defense lawyers said that neither Wiles nor Lloyd made money from their crimes, and noted that both took responsibility from the outset.
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"His wrongdoing is being part of a corrupt bidding process for contracting out legal services for the city," defense lawyer Kathryn Roberts said. "The sad part is that, as an attorney, you have to know better. You're faced with either losing your job and being a whistleblower or you stay and keep your head down and hope that you can squeeze through it quietly."
Lloyd's attorney called him an idealist and political novice who hoped to find mentors at city hall.
"He was a budding star in politics, with great ideas, and homegrown," lawyer Shaka Johnson said of Lloyd. "And then you get into politics and ... slowly but surely, you start to lose sight of the line."
In an earlier plea in the case, Allentown developer Ramzi Haddad pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in September.
Allentown is Pennsylvania's third-largest city with about 120,000 residents. Reading is the state's fifth-largest city with about 90,000 residents.