Ex-roommate of Fattah Jr.'s pleads guilty in fraud case

Posted: August 13, 2014

A FORMER friend and roommate of Chaka Fattah Jr. pleaded guilty in a federal fraud case yesterday and has agreed to cooperate with the government, including testifying against the son of the U.S. congressman at trial.

Matthew T. Amato, 31, of Broomall, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to obtain bank loans, allegedly at Fattah Jr.'s behest.

He turned over most of the proceeds to Fattah Jr. - the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah - who allegedly used the money for personal expenses instead of as working capital as required by the loans, the feds said.

As part of his plea agreement, Amato has agreed to cooperate with the feds and to testify before any grand jury and at any trials, including the pending trial of Fattah Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray said.

Fattah Jr., also 31, known as "Chip," was charged by the feds in an indictment unsealed last Tuesday. He is accused of defrauding banks, the IRS and the School District of Philadelphia of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fattah Jr. declined to comment yesterday. Last week, he said the allegations against him were "false" and claimed the charges were "politically motivated" because of who his father is.

Rep. Fattah, a longtime Philadelphia Democrat, also has been under scrutiny by the feds, who have subpoenaed records from his congressional offices.

According to Amato's charging document, he claimed to be CEO of Chaka Fattah Jr. & Associates, and in 2005 made false statements to three banks - PNC, Wachovia and Sun National - to obtain lines of credit for the business. But Gray said the feds found no legitimate documentation showing the business existed.

Amato obtained a total of $65,000 in credit from the banks. He wrote checks to Fattah Jr., or to a company of Fattah Jr.'s called 259 Strategies, totaling $62,500, according to court documents.

Gray said the funds were used primarily for "personal expenditures" by Fattah Jr. and, at times, by Amato, too. He said that Amato and Fattah lived together in 2005 and 2006 in an apartment on Henry Avenue, and that some money went toward "living purposes."

The two also had roomed together at Drexel University in the early 2000s, said Amato's attorney, Steven F. Marino.

Amato transferred from Drexel to Temple, graduating in 2005.

"He was a young man fresh out of college," Marino said. "He was influenced by Chaka Fattah Jr. The guy had a lot of charisma. He participated in behavior that was unbecoming. It was 10 years ago. [Since then, Amato] has completely changed his life. In the context of things, it appears my client was taken advantage of."

Amato told U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III that he works as an IT consultant for a company called mindSHIFT. His sentencing was set for Nov. 12.

Fattah Jr. returns to court Thursday for his arraignment.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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