Philadelphia

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Accused of Taking Gifts in Exchange for Providing Favors for Business Owners, Defrauding Nursing Home and Relatives

The city's top prosecutor faces 23 charges, according to the indictment, including bribery and extortion.

UPDATE: Williams pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Wednesday. DETAILS HERE


Embattled Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is accused of taking gifts in exchange for providing favors for business owners and defrauding a nursing home as well as his own family members, according to a 50-page indictment released Tuesday.

The city's top prosecutor is charged with bribery, extortion, and honest services wire fraud after he allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars worth of concealed bribes from two business owners in exchange for his agreement to perform official acts. Williams is also accused of defrauding a nursing home and family friends of money that was earmarked for his relative's care.

Mayor Jim Kenney issued the following statement following news of Williams' indictment:

“It is deeply shameful that the City’s chief law enforcement officer has been implicated in such a flagrant violation of the law. At a time when our citizens’ trust in government is at an all-time low, it is disheartening to see yet another elected official give the public a reason not to trust us. That this comes at the head of our justice system is even more troubling. We must all greatly raise the bar for our behavior and show the citizens of Philadelphia that we are capable of carrying out our most basic responsibilities as elected officials, upholding the law.”

Philadelphia’s District Attorney Seth Williams was indicted on corruption charges. NBC10’s Deanna Durante has the latest from the Breaking News Center.

The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, FBI and the IRS during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The announcement came after a lengthy investigation into $160,000 in gifts that Williams allegedly failed to report, including a new roof, a $2,700 couch and luxury vacations.

“The indictment alleges that as District Attorney, Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said. “Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

According to the indictment, Williams solicited and accepted bribes from two business owners in exchange for performing and agreeing to perform official acts for them and their associates from July, 2010 to July, 2015.

Williams allegedly filed false and misleading personal financial statements from 2012 through 2015 in order to conceal the illegal arrangements. The false statements intentionally omitted references to the items Williams received from the business owners, according to the indictment. Williams allegedly amended the financial disclosure statements to list most of the items listed in the indictment, besides a pre-owned 1997 Jaguar he received in June of 2013, after he learned about the federal investigation.

Officials announced a 23-count indictment against Philadelphia’s District Attorney Seth Williams on Tuesday. NBC10 Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher has been tracking the possibility of charges against the top prosecutor for months.

Alleged Arrangement with Business Owner #1

Investigators say Williams solicited and accepted several valuable items from a person identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #1,” between July, 2010 and May, 2015. Those items included an all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana worth $6,381, a custom sofa worth $3,212, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, a $7,000 check, approximately $2,000 in cash, a Louis Vuitton tie worth $205, an iPad worth approximately $300, a Burberry watch and a Burberry purse for his girlfriend, according to the indictment.

Williams allegedly agreed to help Business Owner #1 with security screenings whenever Business Owner #1 returned from foreign travel. Williams contacted a Philadelphia police official and pressured as well as advised the official to assist Business Owner #1 with those "border encounters," according to the indictment.

On March 15, 2013, Williams met with the police official and Business Owner #1, investigators said. During the meeting he allegedly asked the police official to help Business Owner #1 avoid a secondary screening. That same day Williams accepted a $7,000 check from Business Owner #1 and also repeatedly offered to write an official letter under his authority as the District Attorney, on behalf of Business Owner #1, pressuring and advising the police official to help the business owner with the border encounters, according to the indictment.

Breaking Down the Seth Williams Corruption Charges

The indictment also alleges Williams agreed to help with criminal charges brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office against Business Owner #1’s associate, identified as “Person #1,” between February 1, 2012 and February 5, 2012. Williams made the agreement while he was on the Punta Cana vacation which was paid for by Business Owner #1, according to the indictment.

On February 8, 2012, only a few days after returning from Punta Cana, Williams received a text message from Business Owner #1 listing the docket number and hearing date for Person #1’s case, investigators said. The text message stated Person #1 would “take any punishment” but “just doesn’t wanna do jail,” according to the indictment. Williams allegedly responded by texting, “I will look into it.” Williams then allegedly asked about a second trip to Punta Cana that would be paid for by Business Owner #1, texting, “I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds in asking…but we will gladly go.”

The indictment states Business Owner #1 texted Williams in September, 2012 asking him again to help Person #1. Williams allegedly responded by texting, “It seems like he has the possibility of having it thrown out or continued…if it gets continued I will then ask for the file and see what can be done to make it a county sentence.”

Missing Attachment Officials announced a 23-count indictment against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. NBC10’s Randy Gyllenhaal has the latest on the corruption charges.

Alleged Arrangement with Business Owner #2

From March, 2012 through July, 2015, Williams allegedly solicited and accepted from a Philadelphia bar owner identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #2,” approximately 16 round-trip airline tickets to Florida, San Diego and Las Vegas for himself, his girlfriend and members of his family. The indictment also alleges Williams accepted a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible and at least $900 in cash from Business Owner #2.

Investigators say Williams appointed Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in November 2012 in exchange for the gifts. Williams allegedly issued an official badge, wrote an official letter of appointment and gave certain assignments to Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor. Business Owner #2 was on federal probation resulting from a June, 2012 federal tax conviction at the time, according to investigators.

On May 10, 2013 Williams wrote an official letter as the city’s District Attorney acknowledging Business Owner #2’s appointment as Special Advisor to his office, the indictment states. Investigators say Williams accepted the Jaguar from Business Owner #2 in June of 2013.

The indictment also states that Williams issued a second official letter to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on June 2, 2014 in order to influence a hearing to revoke or suspend Business Owner #2’s California liquor license.

In July of 2015, Williams allegedly obtained a police accident report at Business Owner #2’s request. The indictment states Williams texted Business Owner #2, “I wish I could help more…Can I be a greeter or celebrity bartender to work off my debt…I was serious about just doing whatever I can to help you guys!”

Missing Attachment Philadelphia’s top prosecutor was indicted for allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and vacations in exchange for favors. NBC10’s Denise Nakano has the latest on the corruption charges against Seth Williams.

Alleged Fraud of Nursing Home and Family Friends

Williams is also accused of diverting a relative’s pension and Social Security payments to pay for his own personal expenses rather than applying them to the relative’s nursing home costs as he was obligated to do under agreements with the nursing home. The indictment states the nursing home fraud occurred between February, 2012 and November, 2013.

Williams allegedly lied to a nursing home employee, claiming his relative spent the pension and Social Security payments. The indictment also accuses Williams of spending money on his personal expenses after accepting $10,000 from friends of his relative instead of covering expenses for his relative’s nursing home care.

 
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Williams is charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law, two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, five counts of honest services wire fraud and six counts of wire fraud. He will be arraigned Wednesday at 2 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Richard A. Lloret at the U.S. Courthouse on 601 Market Street in Philadelphia.

Williams, the city's first black district attorney, announced last month he would not run for re-election this year. The 50-year-old Democrat said he showed poor judgment and regretted "mistakes in my personal life and in my personal financial life."

Williams has said he encountered financial problems amid a divorce and tuition costs for his children.

NBC10 reached out to Williams' lawyer Michael Diamondstein for comment.

"I can’t comment on the specific allegations because we have yet to review the full indictment," Diamondstein said. "I can say on Mr. Williams’ behalf that he vehemently denies compromising any law enforcement case or investigation. We ask that the public respect the judicial process and refrain from drawing conclusions until the facts can come to light."

Missing Attachment After chargers were brought against the District Attorney Tuesday, voters are now calling for accountability from public officials. NBC10’s Brandon Hudson reports on the city’s reaction to the indictment.
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