Friday, October 23, 2020

Former Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard pleads guilty to fraud


About two hours before former Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard pleaded guilty to federal charges, she posted a message on Facebook.

“I never looked for the world to make me,” she wrote. “Therefore the world will never break me…” She ended with the hashtag, #BendButDontBreak, which she has used in several posts since her arrest.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, in a hearing that lasted about 30 minutes, Dennard pleaded guilty to accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money.

During the hearing in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, Dennard answered many of the judge’s questions with a simple, “Yes, Ma’am.” When Judge Susan Dlott asked Dennard how she wanted to plead, Dennard responded, “I plead guilty.”

- Advertisement -

Dennard, 41, had already signed a plea agreement in which she pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud, meaning she schemed to defraud citizens and the city council of their right to honest services. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

But both sides have agreed that Dennard’s sentence will likely fall between 2 and 2½ years in prison. Dlott will make the final decision. That’s not expected until the end of the year, she said.

Dennard’s mother was in the courtroom supporting her. Later, as proceedings continued, she was joined by The Rev. Nelson Pierce and local activist Iris Roley.

After the hearing, Dennard’s attorney, Marty Pinales, declined comment.

- Advertisement -

“We will be making a full statement at a later point,” Pinales said. “The facts will come out.”

Dennard admitted she obtained approximately $15,000 in connection with a scheme that lasted between August and December 2019. She will have to repay the money, according to the plea agreement.

Dennard also had been facing charges of bribery and attempted extortion. Those charges were dropped as part of the plea.

The head of the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, Chris Hoffman, said the conviction serves as a reminder that the agency considers investigating public corruption a top priority. Hoffman highlighted the issue when he was named special agent in charge earlier this year.

“It is completely unacceptable for an elected official to solicit money in exchange for official actions,” Hoffman said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously investigate fraud and abuse in order to hold public officials accountable.”

David DeVillers, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, tweeted Monday night: “Ms. Dennard treated a bribe as if it was a perk of the job. The corruption itself is almost overshadowed by how shockingly entitled she seemed to the bribe.”

According to court documents, on two separate days in September 2019, Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney to pay for her personal expenses.

In exchange for the money, documents say “Dennard promised and did provide favorable official action on behalf of” the attorney’s unnamed client – including voting on matters before city council.

After receiving the $15,000, Dennard continued to solicit additional money from the attorney, saying that “future help relating to official action…was tied to additional payment,” documents say.

In a Nov. 4, 2019 text message to the attorney, which is included in the indictment, Dennard said: “I could really use your help. It’s kind of urgent to get it today. Happy to help you. But need yours too.”

Dennard was arrested by FBI agents the morning of Feb. 25 on her way to a Downtown Starbucks. After appearing before a federal magistrate judge, she was released the same day. She resigned her position March 2.

In a Facebook Live video posted about three hours after Monday’s court hearing ended, Dennard told supporters that unnamed people were “rooting for my demise.”

- Advertisement -

Those who know her, Dennard said, “know I’m one of the most fair and honest and kind people that you’ll ever meet.”

She also took on critics, saying they were trying “to break my spirit and break me.”

“Because I don’t live by their validation,” she said, “I won’t die by their disapproval.”

About her case, she said “things are not always the way they seem.”

She didn’t elaborate and explained she could not yet discuss the case.

“Just know I’m a very risk-averse person,” she said, apparently referring to the fact that she pleaded guilty instead of taking the case to trial, where she would have faced multiple charges and potentially a longer sentence.

“I’m just trying to do what’s best for me, for my family,” she said, “and the ability to just get things behind me and move on and do what’s next.”


Goldman Sachs executives to cover part payments of $3 billion fines in 1MDB scandal

Nine current or former Goldman Sachs executives, including CEO David Solomon, will have to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation over...

Goldman Sachs agrees $3 billion settlement with US DoJ over 1MDB corruption scandal

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay nearly $3bn (£2.3bn) in the US to end a probe of its role in Malaysia's 1MDB corruption scandal. The...

Hong Kong fines Goldman Sachs $350 million over 1MDB scandal

Goldman Sachs ignored multiple red flags over the multibillion-dollar fundraisings it arranged for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Hong Kong’s financial regulator said on...

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton fires top aide who accused him of bribery

Lacey Mase, one of the top aides who accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of crimes including bribery and abuse of office, has been fired, she told The...

Fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleads guilty in foreign agent case linked to 1MDB

Major Republican Party and Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty Tuesday to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting millions...

Latest News

This Week

Crown Resorts chairman Helen Coonan admits casino ‘enabled’ money laundering

Crown Resorts chairman Helen Coonan has conceded the casino giant facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne casino, but blamed it on "ineptitude" rather than...

Australian court approves $920 million Westpac money laundering fine

The Federal Court of Australia has agreed on the deal struck between the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Westpac, ordering the Australian...

US financial watchdog fines bitcoin mixer operator $60m for money laundering

The founder and operator of some of the first "mixing" services in crypto will have to cough up $60 million to United States regulators,...

Goldman to pay over $2 billion in DOJ’s 1MDB Probe

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has reached a long-awaited pact with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay more than $2 billion for the bank’s...

Adblock Detected!

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our website.

Enable Notifications    Ok No thanks