free-spending lifestyle at taxpayer expense in 2010 and 2011, at least once handed a Harrisburg barmaid an envelope containing $400 cash for her Caribbean vacation.
The barmaid declined to speak for the record for fear of losing her job or damaging her establishment's reputation.
Ali spent more than $90,000 in taxpayer funds while working as an informant for then-Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina in 2010 and 2011. The money includes about $22,100 in “payments to suspects.” Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who declined to prosecute the sloppily-executed sting, said $32,600 was unaccounted for.
It's unclear whether the cash Ali gave to the barmaid is among those expenses.
Ali befriended the barmaid during 2010 as he was trying to establish the persona of a high-flying Harrisburg lobbyist. The ruse was part of a sting, supervised by Fina, intended to ensnare legislators and others involved in the state political scene.
During that time, the barmaid was planning a vacation in the Caribbean. Ali told her not to buy a plane ticket, because he would take care of it for her. As the date of her trip approached, Ali still hadn't provided her with a ticket, despite her regular inquiries. About a week before she planned to leave, as she was asking about the ticket, he went to his car and retrieved an envelope, which he handed to her. It contained $400 cash, which he told her to use for her trip.
It was only after the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the story on March 17 that the barmaid realized that the money likely was part of the taxpayer-funded slush fund Ali was using to attempt to bribe legislators.
Were plane tickets to the Caribbean for Ali's barmaid pals among the legitimate expenses Fina approved for the failed sting? Or was this $400 part of the $32,600 that went unaccounted for? Were there other spontaneous acts of generosity benefiting Harrisburg's hospitality workforce? As much as $32,600 worth of spontaneous generosity?
There seem to be only three possibilities: (1) The $400 was Ali's own money - unlikely, since at the time the taxpayers were covering all of Ali's expenses right down to his bowties and expensive cigars. So, if it wasn't Ali's own money, either (2) Frank Fina approved of Ali handing out cash to his barmaid friends, or (3) he had absolutely no idea what Ali was doing with tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Did Fina know Ali was handing out cash for friends' exotic vacations (and the like), or didn't he? And which is worse?