Kelly aide's wife a fed source

Agents visited her 4 times

Posted: January 18, 2008

THE ESTRANGED wife of Councilman Jack Kelly's chief of staff, Chris Wright, is providing information to federal authorities investigating his activities, she told the Daily News this week.

Marcianne Wright says FBI agents last summer visited her three times at her home and once at the hospital where she works as a registered nurse, to ask questions about her husband.

The agents asked about her husband's relationship with Hardeep Chawla, who is a major campaign contributor to Kelly and who runs Sant Properties, one of the largest owners of commercial land in Northeast Philadelphia. The feds also wanted to know whether her husband had received any free tickets to sporting events and concerts.

Kelly and members of his staff also have been questioned by FBI agents, sources said.

Chris Wright's attorney, Lisa Mathewson, refused to say yesterday if he had spoken to the FBI.

"I would say that both the government and the defense are still developing the facts, and there has been no formal accusation of wrongdoing," said Mathewson, adding that Wright's relationship with Chawla and his brother, Ravinder, a real-estate developer, was completely professional.

"Chris didn't do anything for the developers that wouldn't fall under the category of typical constituent services," she said.

Mathewson declined to discuss the information that Marcianne Wright said she had provided to the FBI.

Kelly this week dismissed the federal probe as "much ado about nothing, probably."

Marcianne Wright said that her husband told her he was helping Hardeep Chawla buy city-owned land and that he bragged about the real-estate commissions he would make on the deals.

Wright said she had gotten the impression that Kelly didn't know much about what Wright was doing for Chawla.

Chris Wright is a licensed real-estate agent who worked briefly at Coldwell Banker Realty Corp. Associates in Center City.

Lynette DuFon, a vice president in that office, said FBI agents visited last summer with a subpoena for documents relating to Chris Wright's work there. The office had little to offer them.

"He really didn't do much business here," DuFon said. "We never paid him a dime."

Andrew Teitelman, an attorney who represents the Chawla brothers and serves as Kelly's campaign treasurer, said Wright had brought prospective buyers to a Center City site being developed by Ravinder Chawla but no deal was ever consummated.

"He was like any other sales agent in the city," said Teitelman, adding that Wright had never received any payment for services from the Chawla brothers and doesn't own any part of their many real-estate deals.

Teitelman also said the Chawla brothers have not given Wright tickets to games or concerts.

Wright, in financial-disclosure forms filed with the city, said that Hardeep Chawla gave him $1,000 as a Christmas gift in 2005.

"That was a personal thing between Hardeep and Chris," Teitelman said.

"It was not related to business and not related to his position in City Hall."

Teitelman, whose law firm operates from the same Huntingdon Valley office building that is home to the companies run by the Chawla family, had an associate represent Wright last year when Sovereign Bank foreclosed on his home in Northeast Philadelphia.

A Common Pleas Court judge in November upheld the mortgage foreclosure on the house and ordered Chris and Marcianne Wright to pay Sovereign $227,808.

Chris Wright, who is still living in the house, is working with the mortgage company and trying to sell it, Teitelman said.

Teitelman also represents the Chawla brothers in an investigation by the city Board of Ethics.

Three of their real-estate partnerships donated a combined $30,000 to Kelly in April, just before the primary election.

The city's new campaign-finance laws limit contributions to $2,500 from individuals and $10,000 from partnerships. *

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