The holiday classic I’ll Be Home for Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning for Chaka Fattah Jr.
The son of former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Phila.) was released from federal prison Tuesday after serving 46 months for bank and tax fraud. His mother, Michelle Wingfield, and his sister, Fran Fattah, picked him up at the bus station. His first meal? A cheesesteak. He declined to say from where.
“I’m looking forward to going to Geno’s soon,” Fattah said, laughing. “Maybe we can [use] Uber Eats.”
When I visited his childhood home in Overbrook on Friday, where he is on house arrest, he was all smiles. Fattah is still every bit as lean as he was during his sentencing three years ago. He’s older, though. He turned 37 last month. He’s no longer using his old handle, “Chip,” in public. He feels he has outgrown the nickname.
Hopefully, he’s also wiser than he was before jurors accepted prosecutors’ depiction of him as a con artist who bilked banks, taxpayers, and clients out of more than $1 million. The jury also found that Fattah and others swindled the Philadelphia School District out of hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2010 and 2012 by submitting inflated budgets for an alternative school run by the for-profit Delaware Valley High School.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, plus five years’ supervised release.
Fattah, who represented himself in court, is planning a comeback to his heady, high-flying days when he sported custom-made suits from Boyd’s, wore Hermes neckties, dined regularly on his favorite meal of rock shrimp at Pod restaurant in University City, and rented luxury apartments in Old City and at the Ritz-Carlton Residences.
“There’s still some room at the top,” he told me.
Fattah also is looking forward to clearing his name but declined to elaborate.
He also declined to go into detail about his time behind bars, except to say that he read a lot of books on business and the Wall Street Journal.
Fattah Jr. is looking for a job in marketing or management. His long-term plan is to open a consulting business. He owes more than $1 million in restitution.
Not that he’s dwelling on that at the moment. Fattah’s still luxuriating in feeling free — well, as much you can when you’re confined to your home. Probation starts in May.
Nor would he discuss his father, who is imprisoned at FCI McKean, the same Northwestern Pennsylvania facility where he had been held. The elder Fattah is serving a 10-year sentence for corruption-related crimes — one of the longest ever for a member of Congress.
The little things matter a lot. It’s been a long time since he had a cell phone — his new one is an iPhone 11 Pro — and could order a pizza. His old laptop, a MacBook Pro, was out and open to his Twitter profile. He was dressed in a black sweatshirt with his name on it and wearing a pair of Louis Vuitton sneakers that had seen better days.
“It’s great to see family on the holidays,” he said. “I hadn’t seen my mom in two years. The last time I’d seen her was on a visit in 2017 in Philadelphia when I was back for an appeal in a trial in a civil case in federal court.”
“Sometime in the next few days, I’ll see my little sisters Cameron and Chandler, who are 21 and 16,” Fattah added. “They are both on the dean’s list. Cameron’s at Johns Hopkins in her third year and Chandler is in high school. They’re doing good but … it’s been 46 months since I’ve seen them, and also I’m looking forward to seeing Renee [Chenault-Fattah], my stepmother. I also spoke with my grandmother. She’s doing good. She’s happy that I’m home. I’m sure a few more people will stop by and we’ll get a chance to talk.”
“It’s great to be home,” he said.
I’ll bet it is. His was a long, hard fall from hanging with President Bill Clinton to sitting in the pokey. (A photo of Fattah with Clinton hangs on his living room wall.)
Here’s hoping his time in federal prison will keep Fattah on the straight and narrow.