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Chenault-Fattah says car sale was proper

Renee Chenault-Fattah insisted Thursday that her sale of a 1989 Porsche convertible for $18,000 was a legitimate transaction and not, as federal prosecutors contend, a sham to cover a bribe from a lobbyist to her husband, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.

Renee Chenault-Fattah, who is on leave, was not charged. (Photo via Facebook)
Renee Chenault-Fattah, who is on leave, was not charged. (Photo via Facebook)Read more

Renee Chenault-Fattah insisted Thursday that her sale of a 1989 Porsche convertible for $18,000 was a legitimate transaction and not, as federal prosecutors contend, a sham to cover a bribe from a lobbyist to her husband, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.

In a letter to NBC10, her employer, the news anchor said she sold the car in 2012 to the lobbyist, Herbert Vederman, but held onto it - undriven, she said, for three years because Vederman did not have room to keep it.

"I know this was a legitimate sale but this not likely to go away anytime soon," Chenault-Fattah wrote, according to NBC10.

The issue of the car's sale was included in a federal indictment of Fattah (D., Pa.) on corruption charges. The indictment, issued Wednesday, did not charge Chenault-Fattah but portrayed her as playing a role in what prosecutors contend was a roundabout attempt to funnel an $18,000 bribe to Fattah.

Chenault-Fattah, one of the station's most visible personalities and anchor of the 4 and 6 p.m. broadcasts, is on leave from NBC10.

The station posted excerpts of Chenault-Fattah's letter on its website Thursday afternoon but did not publish it in full. An NBC spokeswoman did not return requests for comment. Chenault-Fattah's lawyer, Robert Vance, would not comment. His office said it could not release the letter.

Chenault-Fattah, in her letter, said she needed to sell the sports car to raise a portion of the down payment on a Poconos vacation home she and Fattah were purchasing for $425,000 in January 2012.

"A family friend agreed to buy it last minute and we sold the car for its blue book value," she wrote, in an apparent reference to Vederman. "A bill of sale and transfer of title were conveyed to the friend."

The federal indictment said the couple received $18,000 from Vederman for the car but never turned the vehicle over to him.

The indictment alleges that Chenault-Fattah renewed the registration for the car in her name that May, four months after it was sold. She had it serviced in Conshohocken in June 2012 and Fattah continued to pay insurance on the car.

In her letter, Chenault-Fattah said the car remained in one of her three garages despite its being sold to Vederman. The buyer, she said, lived in an apartment. The Fattahs had more space for the car.

"For a time I continued with insuring it since it was in our garage and wanted nothing to happen to it, and I had it towed to be serviced in the spring because I wanted it to be in good shape for the friend since this transaction had happened so hastily in the dead of winter," Chenault-Fattah wrote in her letter, according to NBC10. "It has remained undriven in our garage for 3 years now because on advice of counsel . . . we were instructed to do nothing with the car."

Her letter contradicts an Aug. 22, 2012, story in the Philadelphia Daily News that Chenault-Fattah was spotted fueling the car at a Sunoco station in Germantown, eight months after the sale.

Earlier Thursday, before Chenault-Fattah's letter emerged, Fattah's official Twitter account sent out a link to a 1996 Inquirer story about a decade-old FBI investigation of another Pennsylvania congressman that ended in acquittal.

The headline, tweeted without commentary, highlighted the case of Rep. Joseph McDade, a Republican who represented the Scranton area for nearly four decades. He was found not guilty in 1996 on federal counts of conspiracy, racketeering, and accepting illegal gratuities from defense contractors and lobbyists.

The Fattah tweet marked a departure from its typical stream of scientific articles, videos of the congressman's speeches, and news coverage of his work in his district.

215-854-2928@MattGelb

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