Fattah's wife, an NBC 10 anchor, defends Porsche sale
Renee Chenault-Fattah said in a letter to station bosses that both the indictment and media accounts are incorrect. Feds allege she fraudulently sold luxury car in exchange for a bribe.
BEFORE YOU COULD ask, "What will 'Person E' do next?" Philadelphia heard from longtime NBC10 anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah in a letter to her bosses.
And more questions arose.
Federal prosecutors alleged Wednesday in an 85-page indictment against her husband, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, and four others that Chenault-Fattah fraudulently sold her 1989 Porsche Carrera to a Florida-based lobbyist for $18,000.
"Both the indictment and media accounts are incorrect," she said in her letter to the local NBC affiliate, parts of which were included in a report posted on the station's website yesterday afternoon.
Chenault-Fattah has gone on voluntary leave, an NBC10 source told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The 57-year-old anchor isn't named or charged in the federal indictment, but is identified as "Person E," the congressman's wife, who was "an affiliate of the Fattah enterprise."
"I know this was a legitimate sale, but this is not likely to go away anytime soon," she added.
NBC10 spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman did not return calls seeking comment, but a station source said execs will be monitoring ratings with Chenault-Fattah off the desk and will have more information available next week.
Chenault-Fattah claimed in the letter that she sold the car around January 2012 so that the proceeds could be used to purchase a $425,000 vacation home in the Poconos. "Two weeks before the close, the mortgage said a new law went into effect (this was Jan of 2012) and we were required to put $18,000 in reserve. It could not be a gift or a loan," she wrote.
"A family friend agreed to buy it last minute and we sold the car for its blue book value," she wrote. Herbert Vederman, a deputy mayor under former Mayor Ed Rendell who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla., wired the $18,000 to the Fattahs, the indictment alleges, and later received a bill of sale and title transfer.
Chenault-Fattah, however, held onto the Porsche, stored at their East Falls home. "The car stayed at our house (we have 3 garages and the friend lives in a apartment)," she wrote.
Vederman lives in a Palm Beach condo along the scenic State Road A1A, according to real estate records. The area is home to many of Florida's 1 Percent, and, according to an aerial image of the condominium on the real estate website Zillow, vehicles are parked on the condo complex grounds.
Chenault-Fattah claimed that she continued to pay insurance on the car and towed it in the spring so that it could be serviced. She wanted to keep the Porsche in "good shape" for the buy "since this transaction had happened so hastily in the dead of winter," she wrote.
The car, Chenault-Fattah added, "has remained undriven in our garage for 3 years now because on advice of counsel . . . we were instructed to do nothing with the car."
Except for that one time on Aug. 21, 2012, when former Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross reported that she was seen fueling up the Porsche Carrera convertible at the Sunoco station on Wissahickon Avenue and Rittenhouse Street in Germantown.
Scott Jones of Jacksonville, Fla., a former TV executive who started the website FTVLive.com, said he didn't think her letter "was a good move."
Still, he added, "she wouldn't be the first person to try the case in the media. She definitely has an inside track, knowing how the media works."
In the meantime, be prepared for Chenault-Fattah-less newscasts at 4 and 6 p.m.
"NBC cannot let her go on TV while this thing is working its way in the courts," Jones said yesterday. "If she didn't take herself off the air, I'm positive that station management would have done it."
The anchor, who began at NBC10 in 1991, "can absolutely come back," he said. "If Brian Williams can tell a bold-faced lie on national news, she can absolutely come back."