Originally published on Advocate.com April 20 2004 12:00 AM ET
Joseph L. Lewis Jr., 63, the former head of Philadelphia's HIV/AIDS Commission, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison last week for his participation in stealing about $130,000 in city funds meant for AIDS services, Philadelphia Gay News reports. The commission directs more than $25 million in state and federal AIDS funds for the city. Lewis pleaded guilty in December to mail fraud, money laundering, and wrongful use of a Social Security card in the scam to divert the AIDS funds. He had claimed in a sentencing hearing to have suffered from prostate cancer at the time of his involvement in the scam, which he said made him divert his attention from the actions of two others implicated in the theft. But Lewis presented no medical records or testimony from doctors to back up his claims. He also claimed to be a volunteer at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, but an official at the center said there was no record of Lewis ever volunteering at the hospital.
Lewis was hired to head the regional HIV/AIDS commission in November 1999 and was paid an annual salary of $90,000. Also charged in the scam are Janis P. Moore and Tyrone Smith, the former director of Unity Inc., a defunct AIDS service organization. The $130,000 diverted by the three defendants for their personal use came from a $200,000 grant that was earmarked for HIV awareness and counseling services for at-risk transgendered youths.