P.G.(Alexander) Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati Ohio council member, was accused of accepting $40,000 in bribes today. He had run a failed race for Senate in 2016 and announced his intention to run for Mayor in 2021 in July this year. David DeVillers, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced the allegations of public corruption today in conjunction with Chris Hoffman, FBI special agent in charge.
Council member Sittenfeld is accused of accepting $40,000 in bribes in exchange for specific action in his role as a city official. The six count indictment was announced today by #FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman and U.S. Attorney David DeVillers. pic.twitter.com/88Fv0rHUZ9
— FBI Cincinnati (@FBICincinnati) November 19, 2020
DeVillers announced a six-count indictment, charging Sittenfeld with “bribery, wire fraud and theft of honest services.” The “gist of this indictment,” he continued, “was a scheme to bribe citizens of Cincinnati by corruptly soliciting $40,000 into a PAC that was secretly controlled by Mr. Sittenfeld in exchange for specific and official action and benefits to Project One.” Sittenfeld is the latest indictment in an ongoing investigation that has already indicted two other people, Jeff Pastor and Tyran Marshall. Former Bengals player Chinedum Ndukwe has been cooperating with the project as a confidential FBI witness. Ndukwe became a confidential informant to two undercover FBI agents in a sting to expose the actions of the operation in 2018.
The press release states that Sittenfeld would “deliver the votes” to the city council to support a real estate investment project called Project One. It is alleged that in November and December of 2018, he accepted “four payments of $5000” through his PAC in exchange for the votes. He allegedly accepted four more payments of $5000 in September and October of 2019 related to a projected statewide gambling initiative. “In that particular alleged artifice to defraud,” DeVillers continued, “Mr. Sittenfeld indicated he could use proposed zoning codes in Cincinnati to create a controlled environment so that Project One could have sports gambling to the exclusion of others.” Sittenfeld reportedly told his investors that “he can move more votes than any other single person.”
Sittenfeld’s indictment comes on the heels of two other indictments in recent weeks. City Council member Pastor and his middleman, Marshall, were arraigned in court on Nov 10, facing “ten federal charges including wire services fraud, attempted bribery, extortion and money laundering charges,” according to the local News12 of Cincinnati. Pastor “solicited and received $55,000 in bribes between August 2019 and February 2019” in exchange for “promised official action related to projects before the City of Cincinnati.” Pastor and Marshall had been working on a real estate development deal promising help to investigators if they “could give him money through the newly incorporated Ummah Strength LLC that was set up by Marshall.” DeVillers stated that “other than Mr. Ndukwe—other than Project One,” he knows of “no relationship or conversation between Mr. Pastor and Mr. Sittenfeld in relation to Project One.”
Pastor is charged with each of the 10 counts in the indictment: one count of conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud (up to 20 years in prison), two counts of honest services wire fraud (up to 20 years), three counts of bribery (up to 10 years), three counts of attempted extortion by a government official (up to 20 years) and one count of money laundering (up to 20 years). He pleaded not guilty. Marshall is charged with four crimes: one count of conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud (up to 20 years in prison), one count of bribery (up to 10 years), one count of attempted extortion (up to 20 years) and, one count of money laundering (up to 20 years).
Former Council Member Tamaya Dennard was also arrested earlier in 2020. She pleaded guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud in September. In exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped other charges of bribery and attempted extortion. Dennard admitted to “devising a scheme to accept a $15,000 bribe in exchange for her vote” on the Hilltop land swap deal. She is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 24.
Sittenfeld is charged with two counts each of honest services wire fraud (up to 20 years in prison), bribery (up to 10 years), and attempted extortion by a government official (up to 20 years).