ALLENTOWN, Pa. - As Allentown real estate developer Ramzi Haddad was working to rent out a building he recently purchased, he met with business consultant Ruchlewicz to discuss potential zoning issues.
“Who do I need to grease today?” Haddad is heard asking Ruchlewicz on a secret recording.
“The mayor,” Ruchlewicz replies.
“How much?” Haddad asks.
“Twenty-five hundred,” Ruchlewicz replies.
Haddad returned to the stand Thursday morning as federal prosecutors continued questioning him about his role in alleged pay-to-play politics in Allentown City Hall. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski stands accused of trading city contracts and favors in exchange for campaign contributions.
But the defense continued attacking the prosecution’s position by arguing it was the mayor’s consultants, not the mayor himself, who was shaking people down for money and making promises behind the scenes.
Prosecutors have alleged that Haddad made a series of campaign contributions in exchange for help with zoning and inspection issues on a Sherman Street building he owned.
“I did talk to him about your zoning or your rezoning (expletive),” Ruchlewicz is heard on tape, referring to the mayor. “He said whatever you want, it’s done. Consider it done.”
Haddad is heard on tape complaining about the zoning issues with the property and whether he needs a change to operate a wholesale business versus a warehouse.
“Can you give me the zoning?” Haddad said.
“Yeah, we can give you the zoning,” Ruchlewicz replied.
We’ll sneak it through. We’ll make it legal, don’t worry,” he said.
“How can you fix it?” Haddad said.
“That’s my problem to worry about, not yours,” Ruchlewicz replied. “Don’t worry about it.”
Ruchlewicz and Haddad are heard on a separate recording talking about what Haddad claims was his ability to quickly raise money – and lots of it – for Pawlowski, referencing taking the mayor to New York City and raising $50,000.
But he also expresses disappointment over not being able to explain to the mayor “that I count.”
“He has to be nice to me,” Haddad said of Pawlowski. “He can’t discount me.”
The prosecution played a recording secretly made by former campaign manager Mike Fleck in April 2015, the same month Pawlowski announced he was running for U.S. Senate. Fleck is heard saying that the campaign doesn’t “want to get Rob McCorded,” referencing the former state treasurer found guilty of bribery.
Fleck instructs Pawlowski to stop meeting with Haddad, except to ask for campaign donations. He tells the mayor in the recording to let former Managing Director Fran Dougherty handle any issues with Haddad that relates to official city business.
The mayor – who asked about using burner phones – also asked Fleck to talk with Ruchlewicz in an effort to make sure few campaign donations are actually in Haddad’s name.
“I just don’t want him to show up, you know, as a big donor, that’s all,” Pawlowski said.
During his cross-examination, defense attorney Jack McMahon continued to paint others in the mayor’s orbit as the real dealers in quid pro quo.
Secret recordings show that Haddad had most of his conversations about the zoning issue at his Sherman Street building with Ruchlewicz, not the mayor, and that he’s later heard thanking Dougherty for his help on the matter, McMahon argued.
He also reminded jurors that Haddad in earlier testimony referred to Fleck and Ruchlewicz as liars. Ruchlewicz is heard in one recording telling Haddad that the mayor has “veto power” over all zoning issues in Allentown and can “rezone anything in the city.”
The defense asked Haddad whether Ruchlewicz was lying to him about the mayor’s power over the zoning process.
“And did you know that while Sam Ruchlewicz was working for you, he was also working with the U.S. government?” McMahon asked.
“Can I get my money back then?” Haddad said of his thousands in campaign donations.
He later acknowledged that he didn’t know Ruchlewicz was informing for the FBI, but did say earlier that he initially skipped a May 2015 meeting with the mayor after hearing rumors that the FBI had flipped Fleck.
McMahon attacked Haddad’s testimony by noting that he had made campaign donations to the mayor since 2005 and had contributed to other political candidates. He also used Haddad’s own words against him in a tape conversation with Ruchlewicz.
“Do you know how many people I’ve greased in my life?” Haddad said. “My life is all about greasing people, so do you think you’re the only people …”
McMahon also worked to further his narrative that Fleck and Ruchlewicz were driven by a desire to make money for themselves and worked for the very same people from whom the mayor sought donations.
“I just need you to take care of something for me,” Haddad is heard telling Ruchlewicz. Seriously, take care of these things, and you’ll have enough (expletive) money to do whatever the (expletive) you want.”
“Good,” Ruchlewicz replied.
“I’m gonna emancipate you,” Haddad said.
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