Philadelphia News & Search
The hits just keep coming for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
As city ethics watchdogs hit his campaign fund Wednesday with yet another fine and federal prosecutors charged a key cooperator in his case, the cash-strapped district attorney’s Overbrook home went up for sale with a listing that appears to tout several features that authorities have previously described as improper gifts or bribes.
Williams is seeking $450,000 for the four-bedroom house on the 7000 block of Woodbine Avenue. Photos on the real estate website Trulia.com feature a brown sectional couch – that appears similar in description to the $3,200 custom sofa investigators have alleged he accepted in 2012 from a wealthy benefactor who allegedly sought to buy his help with various legal matters.
The description of the house also advertises its new roof — a gift from a political supporter in 2013 valued at $45,000 that later drew scrutiny because Williams failed to report it on his financial disclosure forms at the time.
Williams did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but the agent named for the property on the website verified that the listing, first reported by the website City & State Pennsylvania, was legitimate.
The district attorney publicly complained of financial struggles, which lie at the heart of his brushes with the city’s Ethics Board and his federal bribery and corruption case, scheduled to go to trial next month.
On Wednesday, the ethics board announced that Williams’ political action fund, The Seth Williams Victory Committee, had agreed to pay an additional $2,000 fine for failing to report $11,677 in spending on its 2016 campaign finance report.
Though the 16 missing expenditures included payments for political consultants, campaign costs and fees, the largest single expense — $3,243 – was for dues to the tony Union League. The PAC and its treasurer, Kristen Stoner, will cover the cost of the fine, the Board of Ethics said.
The settlement came three months after the board assessed a record-breaking $62,000 penalty against Williams for leaving more than $175,000 in gifts, including the new roof, airfare for vacations, Eagles sideline passes and cash off his statements of financial interest between 2010 and 2015.
Many of those gifts are featured in the 23-count indictment prosecutors unveiled last month, alleging Williams accepted bribes worth more than $34,000 from businessmen Mohammad N. Ali and Michael Weiss in exchange for his help with their legal woes.
Prosecutors charged Ali on Wednesday with counts of bribery and tax evasion in a criminal information – a sign that he has already agreed to plead guilty and may be cooperating in the case.
A lawyer for Ali, a Feasterville businessman who allegedly bankrolled a 2012 luxury vacation for Williams and his girlfriend and paid for the couch that appears to be displayed in Williams’ real estate listing, did not immediately return calls for comment.
The allegations lodged against his client largely mirrored the conduct attributed to him in Williams’ indictment last month.
Prosecutors say Ali showered the district attorney with other gifts including cash, pricey meals, an iPad, and Louis Vuitton and Burberry accessories.
And twice, they alleged, he sought something in return – Williams’ assistance in keeping a friend out of prison during a 2012 drug case and the district attorney’s help the following year as Ali sought to avoid secondary security screening at Philadelphia International Airport.
Ali, who owned a prepaid phone card business at the time, was also charged Wednesday with failing to pay taxes on nearly $250,000 he earned in 2012 in addition to his half-million income that year.
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond has not yet set a date for Ali to enter his plea.
Williams, 50, has denied accepting bribes from Ali, Weiss or anyone else and resisted calls from Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney and others to resign before his trial despite agreeing to a temporary suspension of his law license while he fights his case.
His predecessor in office, Lynne Abraham, and lawyer Richard Sprague have filed suit in Common Pleas Court asking a judge to force him out.
Williams announced Feb. 10 that he would run in the May 16 Democratic primary for a third term in office.
Philadelphia News & Search