Some college buddies settle their long-ago squabbles over beers. For Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., the chance to hash out old disputes with a former Drexel University suite mate came Monday in a federal courtroom through a contentious cross-examination.
Albert Guerraty - testifying as a government witness on the second day of Fattah's bank and tax fraud trial - painted an unflattering portrait of his one-time pal, describing exorbitant spending on designer clothes, state-of-the-art stereo equipment, and luxury cars - though, as he recalled it, Fattah rarely had the cash to cover his household bills.
And, despite an apparently constant stream of moneymaking schemes, Guerraty told jurors, Fattah rarely appeared to do any work.
Most days, he said, the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) could be found in his off-campus Henry Avenue apartment "watching Law and Order, laying on the couch, and eating a Fiesta Pizza."
"I don't mean every once in a while," Guerraty testified. "I mean every day - like all the time."
And yet, he added, Fattah would "go out clubbing two to three times a week, and not like a normal person - VIP every time with bottle service."
Prosecutors have accused Fattah, 33, of funding his luxury lifestyle with thousands of dollars in bank loans he obtained fraudulently by telling creditors the loans were meant to support small-business ventures. Investigators allege most of those companies - including a management-consulting firm, a personal concierge service for high rollers, and a photography business - were little more than shams.
With Guerraty's testimony Monday, government lawyers hoped to flesh out their depiction of Fattah as desperate to project the image of wealth and success before he had obtained either.
"Iceberg by Jay Z - that was his favorite brand initially," Guerraty said, describing the contents of Fattah's college-age wardrobe. "Then it progressed to Cartier, Hermes."
Fattah turned an extra room in his college apartment into an additional closet "full of suits, drawers that pulled out, watches, ties."
He drove around town in a $77,000 Range Rover Sport and became a regular at the Capital Grille, where he kept an open tab of greater than $10,000. With money they obtained through business loans, Fattah and his roommate Matthew Amato ordered a $45,000 BMW 3 Series specially from Germany, Guerraty said.
At one point, Fattah and Amato approached Guerraty, hoping to bring him into one of their moneymaking schemes. Guerraty said Fattah showed him a spreadsheet with earnings figures he did not understand.
"All I had to do was show up at a bank and say I worked for FattahGraphy, and I could get loans like them," Guerraty recalled his suite mates telling him. The reference was to Fattah's photo business.
And though he would later list a stint as vice president of marketing for Fattah's management consulting firm - 259 Strategies - on his resumé, he struggled Monday to describe what it or any of Fattah's other businesses did.
Asked about American Royalty, a high-end concierge service through which Fattah and Amato purported to offer clients access to exclusive credit cards and hard-to-obtain restaurant and golf club reservations, Guerraty laughed out loud.
"I thought it was a little overreaching," he said. "They were talking about buying an apartment building in Old City and having parties in the penthouse."
Throughout much of Guerraty's testimony, Fattah sat with an apparent look of disbelief.
When it came time to cross-examine his former friend, Fattah - acting as his own attorney - suggested Guerraty had mischaracterized their business relationship. At times, though, his questions seemed aimed more at gaining the upper hand in the decade-old disputes that ended their friendship.
Fattah seized on their falling-out over a $450 electricity bill.
Guerraty lent Fattah and Amato the cash to pay the bill, but Guerraty told jurors Monday that it took months to get his money back and that he got the money only after threatening to go to Fattah's father, the congressman. In the end, Guerraty said, Fattah never gave him back the cash and instead sent him a $450 gift card to the Capital Grille.
But Fattah shot back.
"Is it possible," he asked, "that you paid less [than $450] and in fact wanted more to settle the debt?"
"No," Guerraty said.
Fattah also bristled at Guerraty's descriptions of his do-little work ethic.
What about "the Polaroid job?" Fattah asked, a gig Fattah described as legitimate work performed by 259 Strategies, the consulting firm.
Guerraty shrugged. Fattah once bought a U-Haul full of about-to-expire Polaroid film from a friend, drove the truck to New York, and sold it, he said.
"This is what they did as 259 Strategies?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson replied. "This was two college students and their buddy trying to sell some film for a friend."
Testimony in the case is expected to resume Tuesday.