An Ohio Democrat Councilwoman has been arrested and faces federal charges after she was accused of trying to sell votes for money. In particular, one vote may have sold for $15,000. Her name is Tamaya Dennard and she could face up to 50 years in jail and the mayor is also calling on her to refute the charges or resign from her position.
Dennard was arrested Tuesday in the Downtown Starbucks and charged with honest services wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion, according to United States Attorney David DeVillers, who confirmed the news in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
Attorney Erik Laursen expressed concerns about not being notified ahead of time about her arrest. He says he was a bit surprised to learn of it.
Dennard allegedly approached an employee at a Cincinnati law firm who specializes in development negotiations, according to federal court documents. Dennard allegedly requested a meeting with the employee, who said they were surprised to hear from Dennard because they had only met her once before.
This is where it gets murky. Dennard is accused of asking the employee for $10,000 to pay for some of her personal expenses, according to a court document. She said she needed money for her rent, a down payment on a car, an legal fees.
In December, apartment complex The Baldwin served Dennard with an eviction notice, saying the bank had returned her rent payment of $2,986, according to the eviction notice.
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After the call with CHS, court documents say CHS offered Dennard advice on how to handle her personal financial issues, and later texted her to say that they would not be providing Dennard with any money.
Dennard says she was in a tight spot with money, was helping her mom, and only had $200. She also tried suggesting that the thousands she may have needed or requested was nothing more than a "pittance" for others.
Whomever she was talking to about selling a vote in exchange for cash was also speaking with the FBI about it. This is where the real trouble comes into play.
The individual then worked with the FBI to complete the transactions Dennard requested, according to the press release, exchanging a total of $15,000 in increments of $10,000 and $5,000 for upcoming votes "on a matter scheduled to be heard by Council."
It also appears that Dennard may have by lying about her needs for the money she was about to receive. While she did state she needed help with personal expenses, that did not appear to include a week long trip shortly after receiving the money.
But, that's what she spent over $4,000 on - a trip to Florida.
“As the affidavit details, a concerned citizen contacted law enforcement following an interaction with Dennard, feeling an ethical and moral obligation to report any criminal wrongdoing,” DeVillers said in the release. “The individual then worked at the direction of law enforcement throughout this investigation. It takes courage for citizens to come forward and assist law enforcement as this individual did.”
After receiving an initial payment of $10,000 from the individual, DeVillers said in the release, Dennard then booked two seats on a flight to Destin-Fort Walton Beach, where she stayed for roughly a week.
"Financial records indicate Dennard spent more than $4,000 total on the Florida trip to include accommodations at the Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater, Fla. and the airfare," according to the release from DeVillers.
But wait, there's more.
Dennard's bank account blew up with deposits. She had $20,295 sent to her and the source, according to WCPO, is unknown.
The crimes she's charged with total a potential 50 years in prison, but a judge probably wouldn't stack the sentences on top of each other. Instead, she'll probably serve them consecutively if found guilty. Since it's a non-violent crime with no true victim, she will likely end up on the lighter side of sentencing depending on her levels of cooperation, how the judge or jury sees it, and if she's cooperating.
She is charged with one count each of honest services wire fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison; bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, punishable by up to 10 years in prison; and attempted extortion under color of right, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.