These haven’t been the best of months for Philadelphia’s city government, dogged by a string of well-publicized corruption trials. On Tuesday, June 14, a friend of Mayor John F. Street, Shamsud-din Ali, leader of a West Philadelphia mosque and operator of a shell Islamic “school,” was convicted on 22 of 34 counts of racketeering, fraud and other offenses. The U.S. Attorney’s Office had argued, with ample evidence, that Ali had led a criminal enterprise, protected by City Hall, raising large sums of money from public and private sources.
Ali, his wife and their children lived the good life, favoring expensive suits, cars and restaurant meals. That lifestyle was made possible through years of loans, contracts and donations obtained through fraud and extortion. That included a $60,000 pay-for-play commission from the City in return for support of Mayor Street. Unions gave generously, too. In 1999 Ali received a $15,000 check from a group called the Friends of Labor, which consisted of members of four LIUNA locals. He’d also received between $15,000 and $25,000 a year from local Laborers chieftain Sam Staten, Sr.
The 67-year-old Ali, who faces sentencing on September 19, is likely to receive a minimum of four to five years in prison. This wouldn’t be his first trip to the slammer. In the 1970s, back when his name was Clarence Fowler, Ali served six years for killing a minister during a robbery until his conviction was overturned in 1976. Among criminals, old habits die hard. (Associated Press, 6/14; other sources).