Lehigh Valley

Defense grills FBI Special Agent Scott Curtis about Fleck, potential schemes

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s attorney on Thursday began mounting his client’s defense, in part, by launching an attack on the mayor’s former campaign manager, the person he’s accused of being the mastermind behind bribing city vendors for campaign contributions.

Investigators allege the mayor traded favors and city contracts in exchange for campaign contributions. Defense attorney Jack McMahon has consistently maintained that campaign manager Michael Fleck was using the clients from his business consulting firm as a source for campaign donations for Pawlowski, the primary client for his campaign consulting firm.

McMahon called to the stand FBI Special Agent Scott Curtis, who was the lead investigator since April or May 2013. The FBI’s investigation appears to have initially began with agents looking into allegations of loan fraud on behalf of Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz, a Fleck employee who eventually worked on the mayor’s campaigns, according to the FBI’s 2014 wiretap affidavit.

McMahon reviewed for the jury Curtis’s affidavit to secure a phone tap on Fleck and Ruchlewicz. An undercover agent posing as a potential developer in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone used a confidential source to get an introduction to Fleck.

McMahon poured over the FBI’s affidavit in which Curtis lays out what he suspected to be a loan scheme meant to defraud the state out of tax revenue generated by the NIZ. He accused Fleck and Ruchlewicz of working with the developers of the proposed Ruckus Brewery project to inflate their projected income in order to secure a bigger loan for their project from the state.

The undercover agent reportedly met with Fleck and Ruchlewicz at Fleck’s house, where Fleck allegedly told him “we deal with all the politics around here.”

McMahon pointed to a passage in the affidavit in which Fleck said his firm can “slap people around,” if necessary. Curtis testified that he took that to mean Fleck told potential clients that his firm had political influence in the city.

The undercover met with Ruchlewicz and Fleck on Aug. 16, 2013, for a briefing on how the NIZ and the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone District Authority works. Under the NIZ, nearly all taxes generated within boundaries are collected and can be used to pay down construction debt. The authority board is tasked with reviewing and approving projects within the district.

Ruchlewicz and Fleck allegedly brag about their influence over politics and the development process in the city. Ruchlewicz allegedly said, “Democracy is dead in Allentown,” followed by Fleck telling the undercover, “We control democracy in Allentown.”

“People vote when we tell them … people vote how we tell them,” Ruchlewicz said, according to the FBI’s affidavit.

Fleck has already pleaded guilty to his role in the alleged pay-to-play scandal, and Ruchlewicz, who testified extensively for the prosecution, has not been charged.

McMahon began his questioning of Curtis by asking about a $76,500 check Fleck wrote to himself after leaving the Lehigh Valley following the July 2, 2015, raid of Allentown City Hall. The check was drawn on the account for the mayor’s U.S. Senate race, written out to H Street Strategies – Fleck’s campaign consulting firm – and signed by Fleck.

Under questioning from McMahon, Curtis said Fleck was asked about the check, specifically about payments for the mayor’s campaign.

McMahon said the check allegedly covered consulting, rental and travel expenses from April through August of 2015. That’s roughly the same period of time Fleck was cooperating with the FBI and is heard on a secret recording telling his staff that he planned on trying to set up the mayor.

Curtis testified that he spoke with Fleck about the check, but did not specifically show it to him because Fleck had already moved from the area.

“Perhaps I can recollect your memory,” McMahon said. “Maybe you wanted your witness to have this $76,000.”

Prosecutors objected to the statement. Fleck was listed as a prosecution witness, but has not been called to testify.

“Where is Mr. Fleck?” McMahon asked Curtis

“Specify?” Curtis replied.

“Is he alive?” McMahon asked.

“Yes, he’s alive,” Curtis said.

“Is he available to come here?” McMahon said.

“You can call him,” Curtis responded.

“I don’t have the burden of proof, my man,” McMahon said.

Judge Juan R. Sanchez promptly interrupted the defense.

“I already warned you,” the judge told McMahon.​

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE  and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links may be removed by the moderator.

This Week's Circulars

Lehigh Valley News

Latest From The Newsroom