Former Allentown official pleads guilty to fraud

Written by The Associated Press | Jan 11, 2016 12:42 PM

Hamilton Street, Allentown. (Allie Caulfield/FLICKR)

(Philadelphia) -- A high-ranking former official in Allentown has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud as part of an FBI probe of government contracting in the commonwealth's third-largest city. 

Former finance director Garret Strathearn of Sea Girt, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Philadelphia. 

The charges involve a city contract for the collection of delinquent real estate taxes.

Court documents allege that an elected city official seeking statewide office instructed Strathearn to manipulate the bidding process to favor a campaign donor.

They  don't name the official, but Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski ran for U.S. Senate this year. Pawlowski has not been charged. 

Strathearn faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he's sentenced April 14.

Former Assistant City Solicitor Dale Wiles will be sentenced March 2.

Federal prosecutors launched investigations into Reading and Allentown city governments last year, saying officials in both cities traded favors for campaign contributions.

In July, the FBI raided the office of the now-former mayor of Reading, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer, along with city halls in Reading and Allentown. 

Since then, several city officials have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and another has been charged.

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