PERHAPS THE IDEA of American Royalty, a luxury concierge business for wealthy clients who just might, on a whim, need a corporate jet or a Rolls Royce, came naturally to Chaka Fattah Jr., then just 23 and still in college.
After all, Fattah, the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah Sr., lived a life of promise and privilege.
At 14, he took a ride aboard Air Force One with President Bill Clinton.
"I was with my dad," the tall, lanky Fattah, 32, said last month during a sit-down interview with the Daily News.
To a teenage Fattah, the plane ride with the president of the United States was a thrill.
"I asked the operator to place a telephone call to a girl I liked and had her announce that it was Chaka Fattah Jr. calling from Air Force One."
Fattah turns 33 this month and concedes that his early exposure to power, influence and "the good life," had an impact.
He developed a taste for expensive Armani suits, Hermes ties, and running monthly tabs in Center City restaurants.
(A police report was filed after he ran up a $15,000 debt at the Capital Grille. The debt was later settled for a lower amount.)
But years before Fattah's conviction in federal court on bank and other fraud charges yesterday, he learned that he could benefit from access to power and connections.
He began learning that as a teenage photographer.
"I took a camera that I got at 13 years old and turned it into $1 million," he told jurors this week during his trial.
(He sometimes told reporters he turned it into $100,000.)
He gained access to festival events and got hired to shoot photos while in high school.
After starting college at Drexel, he wanted to expand his photography business - called FattahGraphy - into a marketing consultant business, and persuaded a college roommate anything was possible.
"You're the son of a congressman," the business partner said in taped recordings played in court.
Did his last name also give him the bravado to go to four different banks for lines of credit totaling $76,000 when he was only 22?
Prosecutors charged that in 2011, after he began working with Delaware Valley High School, he gave false information to obtain a $50,000 line of credit from United Bank.
Even one of Fattah's own defense witnesses said he'd encouraged the young man to "slow down."
"I said, 'Man, you're moving too fast,' " Andre Bean, the former director of the Delaware Valley High School on Kelly Drive, said of Fattah's business plans. "I told him, 'You're in way over your head.' "
He encouraged him to try to finish his Drexel degree before starting new ventures.
Still, Bean said he thought the younger Fattah was smart, but unfocused: "He's really bright and intelligent, but it seems like things came to him at such a fast pace.
"He was blinded by the amounts of money he was raking in at only 21, 22 or 23 years old."
Not long after getting that first camera, a Minolta Vectis S-1, a Christmas gift from his father, Fattah said he was taking it to Central High School every day.
Some photos he took of celebrities at the "Welcome America!" or "Black Family Reunion," which later became the "African American Heritage Festival," were printed in the school newspaper.
The festivals were managed by women with strong political ties and, according to Fattah, their encouragement fueled his entrepreneurial fire.
He said Barbara Daniel Cox, former director of the Mayor's Women's Commission under Mayor Wilson Goode, bought several prints of a photo Fattah had taken of Smokey Robinson, the Motown legend.
According to Fattah, Cox bought him his first set of business cards when he was 16 or 17. The cards read: "FattahGraphy" with a picture of that first camera on them.
Cox declined to comment for this story.
It was through politically connected people like Cox and the late Lana Felton-Ghee, who was chair of former Mayor John Street's election campaign, that he was able to get VIP passes to some festival events.
Fattah said those badges - he'd wear four or five around his neck to show all the years he'd had them - gave him a sense of his own power.
"My friends started calling me 'VIP,' " he said.
In 2004, Fattah traveled with his father to the National Democratic Convention in Boston where John Kerry, now secretary of state, was nominated to run for president. Fattah took photos of Kerry and others.
As came out in court, he also was paid to take photos for the campaigns of both former Gov. Ed Rendell and former Mayor John Street.
Soon, Fattah wanted to expand beyond photography to marketing and consulting. He started Chaka Fattah Jr. Associates, then Boy Genius Web Design, Wall Street Development, and eventually 259 Strategies and Legal Marketing Strategies.
Fattah said he didn't always count on his father's last name.
Once, while in high school, he said he called up the New York offices of the company handling a Britney Spears concert in Philadelphia and got special passes to let him stay for the entire show.
"So I would take pictures in front and while most photographers had to leave, I could bring a pretty girl along and stay for the whole show."
As a Drexel student - who never completed his degree - Fattah worked at Comcast for a co-op program in marketing and got to meet Comcast Chair and CEO Brian L. Roberts.
Later, Fattah and his former roommate, Matthew Amato, were able to meet with Roberts to try to pitch him the idea of joining American Royalty, the concierge service. An individual membership cost $24,000 a year.
While Roberts passed on the deal, Fattah said he left the meeting with good advice after Roberts reportedly asked them: "Who's talking about this?"
So Fattah hired a public-relations firm that helped him get profiles in the Philadelphia Business Journal, Philadelphia Style and Black Enterprise.
In the Business Journal article, Fattah touted his business as more than a personal assistant.
"An assistant can get your car washed, but can they have a limited-edition Rolls Royce Phantom delivered from another country in 24 hours?" he asked.
A former girlfriend helped come up with the American Royalty name from a quote from Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress who had said:
"I'm the closest thing to American royalty, anyway."
In some ways, Fattah seemed to believe he was Philadelphia royalty.
He was brash and confident - some would say arrogant - enough to believe he could act as his own defense lawyer in federal court, even though he never went to law school.
"The government is just upset because they don't like my lifestyle," he said in wrapping up his closing defense argument.
He told jurors the assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting him were mad that "I bought clothes or went to restaurants that they just can't afford."
With his tall frame, 6-3, and weighing 160 pounds, he had to buy custom-made suits, he said.
"My dad taught me," he began then rephrased, "I learned growing up the importance of dressing nicely so people will focus on what you're saying, and what you're doing. It's part of doing business."
So that was why he loved wearing Hermes ties and Armani, Trussini and Canali suits, some costing as much as $2,500, he said.
His custom-made pinstriped shirts cost nearly $200 each, with his initials "CFJ" stitched onto the cuffs.
On Oct. 23, exactly one week after the trial began, Fattah met with the Daily News for an interview. He kept tapping messages into his iPhone.
He said he was trying to get free backstage tickets to a Powerhouse 2015 concert at the Wells Fargo Center later that night to see Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar and Fetty Wap.
A couple days later, Fattah grinned and said his free passes had come through. He'd had just enough time to ditch the business suit he'd worn in court that day and change for the hip-hop show.
Showing off a picture, he said, "I'm wearing Louis Vuitton jeans and a Louis Vuitton hoodie."
On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN