A former Pennsylvania mayor convicted of exchanging public works contracts for campaign contributions is set to be sentenced as part of a federal pay-to-play investigation that led to raids of two city halls a week apart.

Vaughn Spencer, the Democratic mayor of Reading from 2012 until his failed reelection bid in 2015, was convicted in August on conspiracy and bribery charges.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 10 to 12 years in prison.

They accused him of promising engineering contracts to companies that agreed to provide campaign contributions and directing contracts to past donors to ensure they kept supporting his reelection efforts.

Spencer “repeatedly engineered quid pro quos meant to pad his campaign coffers,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said.

Spencer, who is 71, was also convicted of attempting to bribe former City Council President Francisco Acosta in order to try to get an anti-pay-to-play ordinance repealed in Reading, the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. He agreed to give Acosta’s wife a contribution for her campaign in a judge’s race if the ordinance were abolished. The ex-council president was previously sentenced to two years in prison for taking the bribe.

Spencer has denied wrongdoing and said in the past he would appeal his conviction.

Federal investigators raided city halls in Reading and Allentown in 2015 in an investigation of pay-to-play schemes that also ensnared then-Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. Pawlowski was sentenced in October to 15 years in prison for rigging municipal contracts in order to raise money for his political campaigns for higher office.

In the separate but similar scenarios, Mike Fleck was the catalyst. His company served as campaign manager for both Spencer and Pawlowski. Fleck pleaded guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy charges and will be sentenced Friday for his role.

He and another former campaign consultant, who was not charged, recorded conversations of Spencer discussing campaign contributions with people who wanted to work with Reading.

More than a dozen officials have been convicted so far in the plot.


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