Judge to ex-Councilman Jeff Pastor: Guilty plea 'a very important day in your life'

Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor faces up to two years in prison, after pleading guilty Wednesday to a federal corruption charge for a bribery scheme that began during his first year in office in 2018.

Pastor is now the third former council member in recent years to be convicted on corruption charges.

The 39-year-old North Avondale resident appeared in federal court in Cincinnati and pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud. Prosecutors said he used his position on city council to enrich himself, depriving citizens of his honest services.

During the hearing, after telling U.S. District Judge Matthew McFarland that he intended to plead guilty, Pastor wiped tears from his eyes. His federal public defender, Karen Savir, had placed a box of tissues in front of him.

"This is a very important day in your life," McFarland said.

Pastor, wearing a black suit, red tie, sunglasses, and white, Nike Air Jordan shoes, did not respond to questions as he walked out of the courtroom after the hearing.

Pastor was accused of receiving $55,000 in bribes between 2018 and 2019 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer and cooperating witnesses.

In Pastor's plea agreement, he admitted taking $15,000. He is required to repay that money.

What's next for Jeff Pastor

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will not ask for a sentence exceeding two years in prison. Also, Pastor will be able to ask to be placed on probation.

A sentencing date was not set. It typically happens several months after a plea. Although McFarland could impose a longer prison term, judges almost always follow the recommendations in a plea agreement.

Pastor will remain free while he awaits sentencing.

Jeff Pastor and his federal public defender, Karen Savir, walk outside the federal courthouse Downtown after Pastor pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud on Wednesday.
Jeff Pastor and his federal public defender, Karen Savir, walk outside the federal courthouse Downtown after Pastor pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud on Wednesday.

The allegations against Pastor were outlined in an indictment filed in November 2020, the same month P.G. Sittenfeld was charged in a separate bribery scheme.

Court documents in Pastor’s case say that he began soliciting bribes in September 2018, eight months after taking office.

Between September and November 2018, according to the documents, Pastor solicited and received $35,000 – all from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer. In September of that year, the documents say, Pastor traveled via private airplane to Miami, Florida to meet with investors – a trip he didn’t pay for or disclose.

The allegations also included Pastor, in January 2019, asking for a $115,000 salary from an undercover agent posing as a developer. The money, Pastor said, would “get the best” out of him, according to court documents. The undercover agent rejected Pastor’s request.

Then in February 2019, Pastor met with a cooperating witness, explained the steps he was taking to help with a development project and asked for an additional $25,000. The project was the redevelopment of 435 Elm St., a now-vacant property that for years has sat unused.

“I would like to be compensated for my time,” he said, according to the documents.

Case against Pastor's friend pending

Pastor’s friend, Tyrann Marshall, also is accused of participating in the scheme. Authorities described Marshall as a “middleman” who arranged for some payments and set up a nonprofit through which Pastor funneled bribes. The case against Marshall is still pending. Plea negotiations in Marshall's case are continuing, court records say.

One of the former council members convicted of corruption charges completed her prison sentence last year. Tamaya Dennard, who pleaded guilty in June 2020 to an honest services fraud charge, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She was accused of accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money.

Dennard ended up serving less than a year in prison before being transferred to a local halfway house, where court documents say she spent about a month. She was released in June 2022.

Sittenfeld stood trial last year and was found guilty of bribery and attempted extortion in another unrelated case. He is still awaiting sentencing.

A look back: Plea hearing set for Former Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor in corruption case

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Jeff Pastor pleads guilty to corruption charge