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Federal probe of Seth Williams' finances expands to nonprofit

A federal probe into the political and personal finances of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has expanded to include a nonprofit he founded.

A federal probe into the political and personal finances of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has expanded to include a nonprofit he founded.

The Second Chance Foundation, which Williams started in 2011, received a federal subpoena Monday for financial documents, according to the nonprofit board's former chairman and two people familiar with the matter.

That's a new branch of the probe, which for more than a year has been exploring whether Williams misspent political funds on personal expenses.

A third source, familiar with the investigation from its earlier stages, confirmed the expansion. "It's clear that the case has expanded exponentially in the last year," that source said.

Williams declined to comment Tuesday. John Pease III, a lawyer representing Williams, also declined to comment.

FBI agents recently have interviewed staffers at the District Attorney's Office, a spokesman for Williams confirmed last week.

Monday's subpoena was confirmed by Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity, who served as chairman of the foundation until he resigned last week.

Boyer said he left because he "was not kept in the loop" about the nonprofit's operation despite being the chairman.

Boyer said another factor was the revelation last week that Williams had amended his statements of financial interests for 2010 to 2015 to report $160,050 in previously undisclosed gifts. Boyer said he learned of those disclosures from news reports, not from Williams.

The subpoena for records about donations, Boyer said, was received by Michael Weiss, a member of the Second Chance board and co-owner of Woody's, a Center City gay bar. Weiss did not respond to requests for comment.

Weiss' brother, Bill, was listed in Williams' amended statements as having given the district attorney $11,500 in airfare, lodging, and cash for trips to Key West, Fla., Las Vegas, and San Diego.

The foundation's most recent tax filing, submitted in November, listed $104,038 in assets at the end of 2014. It said it raised $86,227 in 2014 and spent $11,700 on grants.

It has raised money through "tasting parties," a 5K race, and an annual "Prayer for Peace" breakfast. The last breakfast, in April at the Crystal Tea Room, featured as a keynote speaker the Rev. Leah Daughtry, CEO of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee.

The nonprofit's website describes its mission as providing "financial assistance and resources to vital, community-based organizations that serve at-risk children, young adults and families to help them lead more productive lives that promote a safer Philadelphia."

Monique Evans-Wescott, who is identified on the nonprofit's website as acting executive director, said she resigned June 28 for personal reasons. She works at the District Attorney's Office, where she is paid $83,625 as director of community engagement.

The Inquirer reported in August 2015 that the FBI and IRS, working with a federal grand jury, issued subpoenas for records from the political action committee Williams used to run his campaigns for public office.

Robert Herdelin, a real estate investor who has contributed to Williams' campaigns, said in June that he was visited twice by FBI agents in the last year. Herdelin said he rented a house in Drexel Hill to Williams' ex-wife at a below-market rate after Williams asked him for a favor.

215-854-5973 @ByChrisBrennan