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State Sen. Farnese charged with fraud in bribery scheme

Larry Farnese has been indicted over allegations that he rigged the election of a political ward seat by offering gifts to committee members.

State Sen. Larry Farnese

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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.

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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 andexpects to be fully exonerated," Sheppard said. "There is no allegation that SenatorFarnese misused his office or government funds nor that he acceptedany gift or kickback. These charges have no connection whatsoever tohis Senatorial office."

The senator stands accused of making a contribution from hiscampaign account to a deserving young student's scholarship fund inexchange for the support of the student's mother in a party wardelection," Sheppard said."The government makes these charges despite the fact that thedonation was properly reported almost five years ago; was given somefive months before a unanimous ward vote in which theCommitteewoman did not even participate; and no other committee personhas claimed to have been offered anything of value by Senator Farnese."

"That is all Senator Farnese is accused ofhere — performing a regular and appropriate part of being a communityand political leader that the government would now like to be declaredillegal."

Additional reporting by Jenny DeHuff

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