The former campaign manager for City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $103,000 from Brown's reelection campaign and another political committee.
John D. McDaniel, 39, signed a "noncooperation" plea agreement with the federal government that does not require him to help prosecutors with other cases but provides for consideration at sentencing if he does.
U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin accepted McDaniel's plea to one count of wire fraud, and set sentencing for May 14.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for 15 to 21 months in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray. McDaniel has also agreed to pay restitution, Gray told the court.
After the hearing, McDaniel declined to talk to reporters. His attorney, Charles M. Gibbs, said only that McDaniel accepted responsibility for his actions and looked forward to getting on with his life.
Outlining McDaniel's offenses for the court, Gray said that while functioning as campaign treasurer for Brown - Gray did not identify the Council member by name - McDaniel used about $60,000 in campaign money for a variety of nonelection purposes.
Those included cash withdrawals from ATMs, $28,450 in checks to himself, and $15,000 transferred to a PAC he controlled, the Progressive Agenda PAC, which he also used for personal expenses. The Progressive Agenda PAC gets heavy financial support from the city laborers' union.
While Brown has not been implicated in the federal case, she was fined a record $48,834 last month by the city Board of Ethics for dozens of campaign finance violations, including the use of $3,300 in campaign donations to repay a personal loan from Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., son of the U.S. congressman, who has been Brown's political mentor.
In an initial public statement and follow-up interviews, Brown characterized the loan repayment as an isolated lapse in judgment brought on by a personal financial crisis.
She blamed McDaniel for an apparent effort to cover up the $3,300 repayment in December 2010 by listing it in her campaign finance reports as a printing expense.
Brown told The Inquirer that she assumed that the payment had been reported accurately but never looked it up herself until early 2012, when she learned that Fattah Jr. was under FBI investigation.
After Brown's 2011 reelection campaign was over, McDaniel landed a patronage job at Philadelphia International Airport in January 2012, running a program for volunteers to help travelers.
Mayor Nutter, who was personally involved in giving McDaniel the job, fired him the day after the Ethics Board reported on Brown's missteps.
State filings from Progressive Agenda and another PAC showed more than $100,000 paid to McDaniel in 2012, an apparent violation of the city's restriction on political activity by city workers.