FBI Probe

US attorney: 'Pay-to-play culture existed in Allentown and Reading'

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. attorney shed more light on charges against Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer, and three others in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Federal prosecutors discussed numerous times they allege Pawlowski and Spencer were the masterminds of pay-to-play schemes in their respective cities.

"They essentially put up a 'for sale' sign in front of their city halls to sell city work to the highest bidder," said Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen.

Pawlowski was charged with 14 counts of bribery, numerous counts of fraud, seven counts of making material false statements and conspiracy.

Prosecutors allege Pawlowski doled out city contracts to those willing to provide him with campaign contributions and fundraise on his behalf.

Pawlowski has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

Attorney Scott Allinson and business consultant James Hickey were also charged in the pay-to-play scheme. Prosecutors allege they helped exchange city work for campaign contributions and other benefits to Pawlowski.

The U.S. attorney said a pay-to-play culture existed in Reading, as well, and Spencer, then the city's mayor, was at the top. The former Reading City Council president's wife, Rebecca Acosta, was also charged in the scheme.

Spencer's lawyer, Geoffrey Johnson, told 69 News the indictment is under review and would not comment further.

The FBI investigation began more than two years ago when investigators raided Allentown and Reading city halls. Since then, 11 people have pleaded guilty in the probe.

Those involved include various city workers in both Allentown and Reading, with crimes ranging from conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud to admitting to taking bribes.

The U.S. attorney said Pawlowski and Spencer will appear in court Thursday afternoon.

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