Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 1, 2016
Reading’s Former City Council President Sentenced To 24 Months In Prison
PHILADELPHIA – Francisco Acosta, 40, of Reading, PA, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for accepting a bribe in order to repeal an ethics law. At the time of the offense, Acosta was the President of Reading’s City Council. He pleaded guilty on August 5, 2015 to conspiracy to commit the bribery offenses of honest services wire fraud and Travel Act bribery. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered a fine of $1,800, three years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a $100 special assessment.
In the spring of 2015, Acosta conspired with a person identified as “Public Official #1” to repeal these restrictions before the May 19, 2015 primary election through a bribery scheme, in violation of federal criminal law. Public Official #1 was a Reading public official who had the power to sign into law ordinances that had been passed by City Council. Public Official #1 was also a candidate in the Democratic Party’s primary election, scheduled for May 19, 2015. Public Official #1 decided to offer Acosta an $1,800 “loan” to the campaign committee of Acosta’s ally ( “Public Official #2”), which would be “forgiven” upon Acosta successfully orchestrating a repeal of certain restrictions codified in Sections 1012 and 1006(H) of Reading’s Code of Ethics. Acosta accepted the payment on April 10, 2015 and, three days later, introduced legislation to eliminate those restrictions in accordance with Public Official #1’s wishes (“the repeal bill”). As agreed to by Public Official #1 and Acosta, the repeal bill would have repealed Section 1012 in its entirety, thereby eliminating the restrictions on campaign contributions and nullifying Section 1006(H)’s prohibition on awarding “no-bid contracts” to certain donors. When Acosta took possession of the bribe check, he agreed that neither he nor Public Official #2 would deposit the bribe check until a later date.
Acosta attempted to persuade other members of City Council to pass the repeal bill before the primary election by falsely asserting that he was motivated solely by the best financial interests of Reading and by concealing that he had received the bribe check. Acosta then made materially false statements to FBI agents who were investigating the bribery scheme. The next day, Acosta took affirmative steps to withdraw from the conspiracy, all without alerting other members of the conspiracy of the FBI’s inquiry into this matter. The repeal bill was unanimously defeated by Reading’s City Council.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigations, and the Pennsylvania State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joe Khan and Nancy Beam Winter.