Cincinnati Democrat Faces Up to 50 Years in Prison over Alleged Bribery Scheme

Zachary Evans

Cincinnati, Ohio Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard was arrested on Tuesday on charges of corruption that could see her face up to 50 years in prison.

The councilwoman is accused of bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion, according to a federal affidavit detailed by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Dennard allegedly agreed to a land swap sought by a developer to build a music venue on the Cincinnati waterfront, in exchange for money from the developer.

“Dennard engaged in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Cincinnati of her honest services as a council member,” FBI agent Nathan Holbrook said in the affidavit. “She engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money.”

In text messages to an unnamed source from a law firm connected with the developer, Dennard repeatedly asked for thousands of dollars. The source originally refused, but when Dennard persisted the source went to the FBI with the information, and agreed to wear a wire to help with an investigation into the councilwoman.

In September 2019, Dennard asked for $10,000-$15,000 for personal expenses.

“It’s more of like trying to get a car and, like I said, money for a new place to live and then just a little bit of breathing room,” the councilwoman wrote in a text message.

The source, acting in conjunction with the FBI, asked Dennard if she would support the music venue project.

“Do you think, you know, can we count on your support with what we’re talking about here?” the source asked in a conversation recorded by wire.

“Sure, mm-hm. Yeah,” Dennard responded. Later in the day, Dennard texted the source asking if “$15K is doable,” writing further, “It would be awesome if this were initiated today.”

The Cincinnati charter has no law saying whether a councilman can continue to serve if charged with a crime, leaving open the possibility that Dennard will stay on while her case unfolds. If convicted, she would be forced by Ohio law to step down.

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