Two people convicted of helping former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah execute a complex scheme to repay a $600,000 political debt with charity and grant money were sentenced Tuesday to multiyear federal prison terms.
Karen Nicholas, who ran Fattah's education nonprofit and helped the congressman raid it for cash to repay his debt, received a two-year sentence from U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III.
And Robert Brand, a businessman and Fattah ally convicted of acting as a pass-through for the illegal payments, was ordered by Bartle to serve 21/2 years behind bars.
The punishments were doled out at separate hearings in federal court in Philadelphia, and came a day after Fattah received a 10-year prison sentence - among the longest ever for a U.S. congressman convicted on federal corruption charges.
Friends and family packed the hearings for Nicholas and Brand, and some delivered statements to the court extolling their virtues.
But Bartle admonished the former Fattah supporters for abusing their positions and privilege to assist Fattah's financial misdeeds.
He told Nicholas that she had a "misguided loyalty" to Fattah, and that "no job or cause is worth doing what you did."
And when Brand said he was regretful "beyond measure" for the anguish his conduct had caused his family, Bartle replied: "It's too bad you didn't think about that before you did what you did."
Nicholas, 58, and Brand, 71, each declined to comment as they left the courtroom, as did their attorneys. They are not required to surrender until Jan. 26.
Both lawyers - Ann Flannery for Nicholas, and Barry Gross for Brand - said in court that they planned to appeal.
Nicholas and Brand were two of four codefendants convicted alongside Fattah. A third, fund-raiser Herbert Vederman, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison; the fourth, Fattah's longtime district office manager, Bonnie Bowser, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
Nicholas and Brand were accused of conspiring with Fattah to repay a $600,000 campaign debt from his ill-fated mayoral run in 2007.
Without money to repay his creditor - Al Lord, CEO of Sallie Mae - prosecutors said, Fattah ordered Nicholas to take $500,000 from the Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit that he founded and she ran, plus an additional $100,000 from a separate scholarship fund, CORE Philly.
Both sums were routed in 2008 to Brand's firm - Solutions for Progress - and then disguised as a legitimate payment from Brand's company to another firm owned by a Fattah political consultant, Thomas Lindenfeld.
Lindenfeld testified at trial in May that his company did no significant work for Brand, and that he assumed that the $600,000 was Fattah's way of settling his debt with Lord.
After cooperating in Fattah's prosecution, Lindenfeld in September was sentenced to four years' probation and a $5,000 fine.
Bartle said Tuesday that he was struck by an apparent lack of contrition from Nicholas and Brand, each of whom was convicted of counts including conspiracy to commit racketeering.
And although Nicholas was convicted on more counts than Brand, the judge gave her a lighter sentence, citing in part that she is a caretaker for her 92-year-old father and has a history of taking underprivileged children into her home and mentoring them.
In addition to their prison sentences, Nicholas and Brand were ordered to repay the $600,000 along with Fattah. Nicholas also was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution for misusing grant money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Nicholas and Brown also will have several years of supervised release when they leave prison.