FOX 29 Investigates: Fattah Tax Subpoena

FOX 29 Investigates: Fattah Tax Subpoena

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PHILADELPHIA -

Why has Congressman Chaka Fattah caught the interest of federal investigators?

It's a question FOX 29 Investigative Reporter Jeff Cole asked the long-time congressman after obtaining a document which shows the FBI seeking Fattah's tax records.

The document has three important names on it.

• Chaka Fattah, a senior member of the Pennsylvania delegation to the U. S. House of Representatives;

• Renee Chenault, his wife and a local television news anchor;

• And Richard J. Haag, a Special Agent of the FBI, working out of the Bureau's Arch Street, Philadelphia headquarters.

The document lists Haag as the contact for all questions and directs the records be sent to him.

Fortunato Perri is a well-known criminal defense attorney who reviewed the document for FOX 29 Investigates.

"When law enforcement issues these types of subpoenas, requesting these types of documents, obviously they are attempting to carefully examine someone's financial situation," Perri said.

And that is what appears to be happening here.

The document is a subpoena, likely issued by a federal grand jury, and is marked at the top "Attachment A."

It seeks records held by the city of Philadelphia including "... any and all records pertaining to City property tax assessed to properties owned by Chaka Fattah, Sr. from January 1, 2008 through the present. "

It requests bills, invoices, receipts, copies of canceled checks or records of other method of payment and all correspondence between the city and Chaka Fattah.

The demands then become more specific seeking "... all records pertaining to City property tax assessed to 5783 Nassau Road, Philadelphia."

According to city records, this Nassau Road property is owned by Arthur W. Davenport, the name Representative Fattah was given at birth but was later changed. The name Chaka Fattah also appears as an owner.

The property carries a total assessment of $90,600 and a tax bill of over $1,100, which has been paid.

When we questioned Fattah late last month, he appeared to be aware of the federal probe.

"What can you tell me about what appears to be a grand jury subpoena for your tax records here in the city of Philadelphia, Congressman? What can you tell me about it?" Cole asked.

"Well, I can't add anything to it, other than to say that I'm a, the senior congressman and any activities that I'm involved in are appropriate for review, and I assume that any review would be appropriate," Fattah answered.

FOX 29 has learned Fattah has hired veteran Philadelphia lawyer Luther Weaver. Fattah's Washington office directed us to contact Weaver.

On the phone, Weaver said Fattah hired him during the summer and that, even though he has not laid eyes on the subpoena, he is not surprised by it – claiming federal law enforcement has been reviewing Fattah since 2007.

The congressman repeated that stunning claim to FOX 29.

"Have you hired legal counsel, congressman?" Cole asked.

"Well, it's important to note that these are matters that have been being reviewed since, as best as I know, since 2007," Fattah said.

"The federal government's been looking at you since 2007?" Cole followed-up.

"And we're assured that they are doing it appropriately and, you know, when you're in a public role, it's to be expected," Fattah said.

The subpoena also seeks "any and all records for wage tax assessed to Chaka Fattah, Sr." and "any and all records pertaining to City of Philadelphia Water Revenue Bureau accounts," water bills.

Cole inquired, "Congressman, are there any properties or taxes that you haven't paid or have gotten any break on?"

"There are no circumstances in which I would ever do anything that would embarrass my constituents or my family," Fattah replied. "And I owe no taxes, and I've never received any break."

Perri told FOX 29, "They are probably trying to track properties in question, individuals who may own the properties, how the funds were acquired to purchase properties. That's typically how these types of things are investigated."

In our conversation, Fattah argued it's not abnormal for prominent members of Congress to come under review by federal law enforcement, and he said this.

"If a fire alarm has been pulled, it's perfectly warranted for the fire company to come. But that does not discern that there's an actual fire," Fattah said.

And there's something else. The document also lists the name of the representative's prominent wife, newscaster Renee Chenault, and seeks "... any and all records pertaining to Water Revenue Bureau accounts" and real property at a Netherfield Road, Philadelphia address.

According to city records, the owner of the Netherfield house is Renee Chenault, and it has a total assessment of nearly $600,000. The $13,200 tax bill is paid.

We asked Rep. Fattah about his wife's name appearing on the subpoena.

"Congressman, your wife's name is on the document, as is her Social Security number, as well, and they're looking at records that relate directly to her. Why would that be?" Cole asked.

"Well, I don't believe that that's the case at all, other than the fact that she's my wife," Fattah said.

Cole began to answer, "Sir, I can show you the …"

"And I don't know why you would ever bring in my family," Fattah said. "End of discussion, that's it."

"Congressman, I have the letter," Cole responded. "Would you like to see it?"

"No," Fattah said.

"Are you claiming that I'm not telling you something truthful?" Cole asked. "Is that what you're claiming?"

"I don't want to see anything," Fattah said, before adding, "I'm gonna let you go, all right?"

Cole said, "Congressman, please," and attempted to show Fattah his wife's name on the document. "Look right here, Renee Chenault-Fattah."

"No, no, I want you to pull yourself together, all right?" Fattah said. "No, I don't want you to ever try to embarrass my family."

"I have every right in the world to ask you every question that I want," Cole said.

"Excuse me, excuse me, you can do whatever you want to do, but never, ever, ever …" Fattah said.

"Your wife's name is on this document, and I have a right to ask you that question," Cole asserted.

"And let me say that … " Fattah said.

"… If that's embarrassing to you, I'm sorry, but I have a right as a reporter," Cole said.

"Did someone say that you didn't have a right?" Fattah asked.

A source with knowledge of the investigation tells FOX 29 that Renee Chenault-Fattah's name appearing on the subpoena is largely due to her marriage to the congressman and any property they may share, and that she is not the focus of the probe.

In an email, Chenault-Fattah wrote she could not "add to any of the answers" her husband gave us.

The Office of the U.S Attorney would not confirm or deny an investigation, nor would the FBI, Cole reported.

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