Berks

Former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer's trial to begin Monday

PHILADELPHIA - The trial of a former Reading mayor accused of bribery and wire fraud is set to begin Monday.

The jury trial for Vaughn Spencer is set to get underway before Judge Juan Sanchez at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia at 9 a.m.

Spencer is charged with nine counts of bribery and one count each of honest services wire fraud and conspiracy.

Prosecutors said when Spencer was running for re-election in 2015, he allegedly steered engineering contracts toward companies that contributed to him in the past and promised contracts to those who would have supported him in the future.

Spencer would eventually lose in the primary election that year to current Reading Mayor Wally Scott.

Prosecutors also said Spencer also bribed former Reading City Council President Francis Acosta. Prosecutors said the deal was Spencer would give $1,800 to Acosta's wife, Rebecca, for her magisterial district judge campaign if Francis Acosta sought a repeal of the city's anti-pay-to-play ordinance.

Spencer appeared in court on August 13 for a pre-trial hearing. Also appearing in court that day was former Rebecca Acosta, a former Reading School Board president, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Rebecca Acosta was originally facing two counts of bribery, one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and conspiracy. Prosecutors are expected to dismiss those charges.

Sentencing is set for the end of November. Her charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison plus three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

Rebecca Acosta is accused of obtaining inside information about a Reading School District construction project. It is alleged that Spencer asked her for the information so it could be passed along to a business consultant named James Hickey.

In exchange, Rebecca Acosta would receive a campaign contribution from Hickey's engineering firm for her 2015 judicial race, officials said.

Prosecutors would not comment on whether Acosta will testify against Spencer.

Francis Acosta pleaded guilty in 2015 to conspiracy to commit bribery offenses and spent nearly two years in federal prison.

Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was convicted of 47 counts on March 1 as a result of a parallel investigation into city pay-to-play practices.​​​​​ Pawlowski is due to be sentenced in September.


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