Handyman gets probation for role in city corruption case

The handyman at a Berks County church was sentenced Thursday to five years' probation in connection with the city's "pay to play" corruption case.

Following prosecutors' recommendation for a reduced sentence, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson sentenced Jose Mendoza, 46, to probation and ordered him to pay restitution of $57,000. Mendoza had cooperated with investigators.

Mendoza pleaded guilty in August 2004 to falsely telling Commerce Bank that he was general manager of a company that had done repairs to St. James Chapel Church of God in Christ _ a church in Reading where former Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp worshipped.

The company existed only on paper, and tens of thousands of dollars loaned for a church renovation project ended up in the pockets of its pastor, the Rev. Francis D. McCracken, and Kemp, investigators said.

Mendoza allowed himself to be used by McCracken and Kemp in their dealings with the bank but made no money from the scheme, officials said.

McCracken pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to 30 months in prison plus restitution. He used the church construction loan for his daughter's college tuition and other personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Kemp was convicted on bank-related charges and other corruption charges related to his work in City Hall. Last month, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Mendoza testified against Kemp at trial; Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Zack said prosecutors asked for a reduced sentence for Mendoza because of his cooperation.

As part of the sweeping public corruption probe, the FBI bugged Mayor John F. Street's office, but the device was discovered shortly after it was put into place. Prosecutors said they unearthed no evidence that Street had committed any crime and he was not charged.


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