Tyron B. Ali, the undercover operative at the heart of the sting that caught on recordings Democratic legislators from Philadelphia pocketing cash, has agreed to repay $63,000 to resolve allegations he defrauded a program to feed the poor.
In 2009, state prosecutors charged him with 2,088 criminal counts, alleging he had siphoned $430,000 from a federally funded state program to feed impoverished children and seniors.
But Peter Smith, the U.S. attorney in Harrisburg, said Tuesday that the initial claim was overblown. "It appears that the actual loss must have been much less than the $430,000," he said.
Given the passage of time and the loss of records, Smith said, prosecutors had to settle for a figure they concluded they could prove.
His assessment appeared to support statements from some state prosecutors and Ali's defense lawyer, Robert J. Levant, that the original charges against Ali had been excessive.
Former state prosecutor Frank Fina, then in charge of corruption investigations for the Attorney General's Office, reached a deal with Ali under which all charges were dropped in return for his work as an undercover informant. In all, Ali went undercover for 19 months between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2012, recording 113 conversations.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane later declined to pursue the cases his work generated, calling Fina's plea deal with Ali a too-lenient "deal of the century."
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams resurrected the probe and charged five former or current state House members and one former Traffic Court judge, all Philadelphia Democrats, with corruption.
Former Judge Thomasine Tynes and former State Reps. Michelle Brownlee, Harold James, and Ronald Waters have entered guilty pleas.
The remaining defendants - State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Vanessa Lowery Brown - have rejected plea deals and are scheduled for trials. Bishop's lawyer is seeking court permission to subpoena Ali as a witness at her preliminary hearing.
A former registered lobbyist, Ali ran the food program out of a North Broad Street storefront. He also operated a now-closed day-care center there.
Under the agreement with prosecutors, Ali, 42, will pay at least $100 a month towards the debt. Smith said the monthly sum owed was not ideal, but was all Ali could afford.
Levant said he and his client would not comment.