When Federal prosecutors indicted U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah on charges on racketeering, they also claimed that "Person E" fraudulently sold her 1989 Porsche Carrera to a Florida-based lobbyist for $18,000.
"Person E" is WCAU Anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah and she is currently off the air while he husband deals with his legal issues.
Chenault-Fattah has not been charged and in a letter to her newsroom yesterday, she claims the sale of her car was on the up and up.
The Philly Daily News writes that Chenault-Fattah has gone on voluntary leave, an WCAU source told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
WCAU spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman did not return calls seeking comment, but a station source said execs will be monitoring ratings with Chenault-Fattah off the desk and will have more information available next week.
Chenault-Fattah claimed in the letter that she sold the car around January 2012 so that the proceeds could be used to purchase a $425,000 vacation home in the Poconos. "Two weeks before the close, the mortgage said a new law went into effect (this was Jan of 2012) and we were required to put $18,000 in reserve. It could not be a gift or a loan," she wrote.
"A family friend agreed to buy it last minute and we sold the car for its blue book value," she wrote. Herbert Vederman, a deputy mayor under former Mayor Ed Rendell who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla., wired the $18,000 to the Fattahs, the indictment alleges, and later received a bill of sale and title transfer.
Chenault-Fattah, however, held onto the Porsche, stored at their East Falls home. "The car stayed at our house (we have 3 garages and the friend lives in a apartment)," she wrote.
Chenault-Fattah claimed that she continued to pay insurance on the car and towed it in the spring so that it could be serviced. She wanted to keep the Porsche in "good shape" for the buy "since this transaction had happened so hastily in the dead of winter," she wrote.
The car, Chenault-Fattah added, "has remained undriven in our garage for 3 years now because on advice of counsel . . . we were instructed to do nothing with the car."
Except for that one time on Aug. 21, 2012, when former Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross reported that she was seen fueling up the Porsche Carrera convertible at the Sunoco station on Wissahickon Avenue and Rittenhouse Street in Germantown.
Scott Jones of Jacksonville, Fla., a former TV executive who started the website FTVLive.com, said he didn't think her letter "was a good move."
Still, he added, "she wouldn't be the first person to try the case in the media. She definitely has an inside track, knowing how the media works."
In the meantime, be prepared for Chenault-Fattah-less newscasts at 4 and 6 p.m.
"NBC cannot let her go on TV while this thing is working its way in the courts," Jones said yesterday. "If she didn't take herself off the air, I'm positive that station management would have done it."
- The anchor, who began at NBC10 in 1991, "can absolutely come back," he said. "If Brian Williams can tell a bold-faced lie on national news, she can absolutely come back."