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'Queen' Bishop's nonprofit plan foiled

State Rep. Louise Bishop, charged with bribery, also tried to steer business to a building run by a nonprofit that paid her daughter.

State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop.
State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop.Read more

STATE REP. Louise Williams Bishop has tried mightily to distance herself from the Lancaster Avenue Redevelopment Corp.

She refused to answer questions about her ties to the floundering nonprofit when the Daily News dug into its finances last year.

But the tape don't lie.

Bishop, 81, a minister and longtime gospel-radio host, not only pocketed $1,500 from lobbyist-turned-informant Tyron Ali, but also was recorded in 2010 trying to get Ali to steer business to a LARC-owned property in West Philadelphia, according to the grand-jury presentment released yesterday.

LARC, an Overbrook-based revitalization group that received at least $1.9 million in state and city funds, is chaired by Anthony Lewis Jr., a member of the city's Board of Revision of Taxes and a regular Bishop campaign contributor.

Financial records show that LARC paid Bishop's daughter, Tamika Mezache, about $120,000 over three years, the Daily News has reported. It also spent an additional $400,000 in consulting, management fees and staff costs between 2002 and 2006, records show.

The grand jury found that Bishop, charged yesterday with bribery and related offenses, had tried to persuade Ali to bring a bank and a sports bar to the failing LARC shopping center at 59th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

During an October 2010 meeting in her office, Bishop was recorded telling Ali that she was unbeatable - "In my area, I'm the queen," she said - but that she was having a hard time raising money. When Ali asked how he could help, Bishop said that "what is needed and what would secure" her would be for one of his clients to move into the LARC shopping center.

The center - originally named the Louise Williams Bishop Retail and Commercial Center - was built in 2010 with public funding that Bishop helped to secure, but it only landed one tenant: Little Caesars Pizza.

Laborers' Local 332 agreed to buy the shopping center for $300,000 in June. The free-market value on the transfer-tax certification is listed at $481,900.

Lewis, the Bishop ally who ran LARC, is a paid consultant for Local 332. His nephew is Sam Staten Jr., the union's business manager.

Staten said after the sale that Lewis had nothing to do with the transaction, but declined to discuss it further.

"What's the deal with the story?" he asked in July. "Why you need a story?"