A state senator from the Philadelphia area was indicted on Tuesday on federal fraud charges, prosecutors announced.
State Sen. Larry Farnese, 47, is accused of using $6,000 in campaign funds to secure his election as Eighth Ward leader in 2011. He was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violations of the Travel Act.
The indictment alleges that from May to December 2011, "Farnese and [Ellen] Chapman devised a bribe scheme in which Farnese paid $6,000 to a college study-abroad program for Chapman’s daughter in exchange for Chapman’s agreement to use her position with the Eighth Ward Democratic Committee to support Farnese in the upcoming ward leader election," a press release from Philly federal prosecutors stated.
Farnese allegedly took the cash out of his campaign fund and "disguised the true purpose of the payment by falsely listing it as a 'donation' on the campaign’s finance report," according to prosecutors.
Chapman, 62, an 8th Ward committee member, is also charged with conspiracy and mail fraud, prosecutors said.
Farnese's attorney Mark Sheppard released a statement denying all charges and emphasizing that Farnese is not accused of misusing his office as state senator or accepting gifts or kickbacks.
"Larry Farnese is 100 percent innocent of these novel charges and expects to be fully exonerated," Sheppard said. "There is no allegation that Senator Farnese misused his office or government funds nor that he accepted any gift or kickback. These charges have no connection whatsoever to his Senatorial office."
The senator stands accused of making a contribution from his campaign account to a deserving young student's scholarship fund in exchange for the support of the student's mother in a party ward election," Sheppard said. "The government makes these charges despite the fact that the donation was properly reported almost five years ago; was given some five months before a unanimous ward vote in which the Committeewoman did not even participate; and no other committee person has claimed to have been offered anything of value by Senator Farnese."
"That is all Senator Farnese is accused of here — performing a regular and appropriate part of being a community and political leader that the government would now like to be declared illegal."
Additional reporting by Jenny DeHuff