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Philadelphia DA spent campaign funds on birthday parties, facials and massages, feds say

Even more charges filed against Philly DA Seth Williams, claiming he misused campaign funds and government vehicles.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams leaves federal court in Philly after being indicted on federal corruption charges. Williams was hit with additional charges Tuesday. (Sam Newhouse)

Embattled Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has been hit with even more charges of fraud, stemming from allegations that he misused political action committee funds and government vehicles.

According to a superseding indictment unsealed on Tuesday, Williams allegedly used PAC funds to pay for dinner parties, family events and other personal expenses – including more than $677 for a New Year’s Eve celebration, $2,674 for a birthday dinner and nearly $1,000 on facials, massages and other luxuries – over the course of six years.

Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced Tuesday that prosecutors have now brought 29 charges against the 50-year-old Williams, of Philadelphia, including 11 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery, two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, two counts of honest services wire fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.

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According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the new charges are based on the use of funding from the Friends of Seth Williams or “The Committee to Elect Seth Williams” PAC. Legally, these types of funds are only allowed to be used in relation to political campaigns.

However, according to the new indictment, for six years – from August 2010 through August 2016 – Williams allegedly used PAC funding for personal expenses and covered it up by providing false or incomplete reports.

For instance, the indictment claims that between August and September of 2010, the PAC disbursed two checks to a political consultant for about $4,136.59.

After that political consultant obtained those funds, the indictment claims that within days of writing that check, Williams obtained a check from the consultant in the amount of $4,036.59, which Williams then put into his own bank account and used for personal expenses.

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The indictment also claims Williams used the PAC’s debit card for a variety of expenses that were not used in connection with any election. This, court documents note, included: 

-$677.98 for a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2013
-$195.50 for a facial and massage in January of 2014
-$777.19 for an April 10, 2014 birthday dinner
-$491.50 for a massage, facial, gift card, and fitness classes in January of 2015
-approximately $2,674.41 for an April 10, 2015 birthday dinner
-approximately $211.50 for massages in May 2015

Williams also allegedly used the PAC’s debit card to pay for massages to the tune of about $222.50 in January of 2013, $209 in July of 2013, $251.50 in September of 2013, and $90 in November of 2013.

The indictment also claims that Williams used city vehicles and vehicles for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program in Philadelphia and Camden, of which, Williams was an executive board member – for his personal use during non-working hours, nights and weekends.

“Williams directed his security detail to leave a city or HIDTA vehicle at his home every weeknight, so that he would have access to it during all non-working hours,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. 

Through abusing the use of these vehicles, including a Nissan Armada SUV and two Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, the indictment claims that Williams personally spent nothing on a vehicle for years.

Williams was originally charged in March and his trial is currently scheduled to begin May 31.