Former Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard pleads guilty to wire fraud
CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Accused of selling her vote for money, former Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard formally entered a guilty plea on a charge of wire fraud in federal court Monday.
Dennard, 40, sat quietly and read along with the plea agreement, responding “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” as she was questioned by the judge.
“She sought to deprive the citizens of Cincinnati of their rights to honest services by an elected official in order to enrich herself through corruption,” David M. DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said.
Dennard’s plea also includes a $15,000 money judgment against her.
Sentencing will come at a later date.
Dennard could face up to 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years, and a fine not to exceed $250,000, court documents say.
“It is completely unacceptable for an elected official to solicit money in exchange for official actions. Today’s plea should serve as a reminder that the FBI considers public corruption to be a top priority and we will continue to vigorously investigate fraud and abuse in order to hold public officials accountable,” Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman said.
Two additional charges, charges of bribery and attempted extortion, were dropped as part of the plea.
The FBI told FOX19 it has no comment about the plea agreement at this time.
Dennard made a post on her Facebook page several hours before entering her guilty plea, “The thing folks don’t understand about me and people like me who have gotten it out of the mud is that I never looked for the world to make me. Therefore the world will never break me. Or as my grandmother used to tell me, ‘This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.‘”
Monday evening, Dennard put on a short Facebook Live video, which has since been deleted or hidden.
Dennard noted she could not speak on her case and called the last several months “stressful” but wanted people to know she was “ok.”
She also said those who wish “bad harm” on her are people who don’t like her politics or have never met her.
“If anybody spent any amount of time with me, you will know I am one of the most fair and honest and kind people you will ever meet,” she said. Later she described herself as one of the “most real and honest people ever.”
Dennard also briefly mentioned George Floyd, explaining her desire for justice and equity preceded his death and will continue into the future.
According to the plea agreement, Dennard is admitting she received and will pay back $15,000 obtained from “CHS” who was later identified as longtime riverfront developer Tom Gableman, an attorney who works for the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners.
“Dennard sent a text communication on or about Aug. 17, 2019, to CHS stating, ‘If you are willing to meet with me, I’m sure that I will be able to help you,‘” the documents say.
According to the court documents, Dennard received a cashier’s check for $10,000 and $5,000 in cash in Sept. 2019 from CHS.
“In exchange for and because of the money from the CHS, Dennard promised to and did provide favorable official action on behalf of CHS and CHS’s client as requested and as opportunities arose, including voting on matters before Cincinnati City Council for the benefit of CHS and CHS’s client,” the documents read.
The documents say Dennard continued to ask for more money from CHS in return for, “future help relating to official action for the benefit of CHS and CHS’s client was tied to additional payment from CHS.”
Dennard resigned in March amid growing calls for her to step down after her arrest in late February.
She was indicted in later that month on federal charges of bribery, attempted extortion, and wire fraud, court records show
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