Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor arrested on federal bribery charges, feds say

Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor arrested on federal bribery charges, feds say

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - FBI agents arrested Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor at home early Tuesday on federal bribery-related charges, officials announced.

Pastor, 36, was in office for only six months before he sought his first bribe, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers.

Pastor allegedly solicited and received $55,000 in bribes between Aug. 2018 and Feb. 2019 in exchange for favorable action on certain projects being considered by the City of Cincinnati, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

He is charged with 10 counts in the indictment including wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion by a government official, and money laundering.

The release says Pastor’s business partner Tyran Marshall, 35, allegedly acted as a middleman in receiving bribes payments.

Marshall is charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and money laundering.

City council member, business partner accused of bribery, extortion

Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Chinedum Ndukwe, who now owns a development firm, was vital to Pastor’s arrest, DeVillers explained.

After being approached by officials, Ndukwe agreed to help with the investigation as a witness and an FBI informant, DeVillers said.

Court documents state an unnamed undercover informant posed as a business partner and financial supporter for two people pursuing separate real estate development projects in Cincinnati.

Pastor and Marshall flew on a private plane to Miami in Sep. 2018 to meet with investors for one of the projects. Neither Pastor nor Marshall paid for nor disclosed the trip, documents state.

It was during the Miami trip when the documents say Pastor assured the undercover informant of favorable official action for his project in Cincinnati.

Pastor said the bribery money could go through Marshall’s non-profit entity, Ummah Strength LLC, the records read.

While still in Miami, Pastor talked about “compensation” and agreed to accept $15,000 for his part in helping with the project, the indictment says.

Pastor accepted another $15,000 about a week later, according to the court documents.

The documents say in Oct. and Nov. of 2018, Pastor and Marshall allegedly solicited and received another $20,000 for the councilman’s help with a second project.

Pastor allegedly continued to attempt to secure more bribe money for help on a city project from Jan. 2019 through March 2019, the indictment reads.

At one point, Pastor asked for a $200,000 base pay in his bribery solicitations, DeVillers said Tuesday.

The allegations against Pastor trace back to the former Convention Place Mall at 435 Elm Street.

During Jan. 2019, Columbus lobbyist Neil Clark tells FOX19 Now he and Ndukwe met with two people, who turned out to be undercover informants, and a couple of City Council members.

“They made it very clear that they had the votes and the support from City Council to make it a boutique hotel and that would like to have a few sports betting machines in their bar,” Clark said.

Clark is not sure if one of the council members was Pastor but did acknowledge that one of the lawmakers was a Black man.

Pastor is charged with 10 counts in the indictment including wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion by a government official, and money laundering.

If Pastor is convicted on all charges, he faces up to 90 years in prison.

Who is Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor

Marshall is charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and money laundering.

Marshall, if convicted on all charges, faces up to 70 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Pastor and Marshall appeared in court for the charges and both pleaded not guilty.

Pastor was allowed to leave on his own recognizance under certain conditions outlined by the judge.

Pastor is not allowed to travel outside the Greater Cincinnati area and must turn over his passport and not possess a firearm.

The judge went on to say, “If you violate any of the conditions that I have gone over with you today, a violation could result in a warrant for your arrest, a revocation of your release, and an order that you be detained.”

Councilman Pastor pleads not guilty to federal bribery-related charges

Councilmember Betsy Sundermann was the first of many elected officials and other leaders to swiftly call for Pastor to resign in light of his arrest.

Should Pastor choose to resign, he named Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman as the person who should pick his replacement, according to the successor designation certificate obtained by FOX19 Now.

Amy Murray was listed as Pastor’s first choice on the successor designation certificate, but she is no longer on the council.

Smitherman said on Tuesday when speaking with reporters he is reserving any judgment and is waiting for all the facts to come out.

“And I want to give him the benefit of the doubt prior to me jumping to any conclusions, or saying anything that would make him feel as if I’ve come to a conclusion before having the information,” Smitherman explained.

This is the second time this year that a Cincinnati City Council member has been accused of corruption related to city development projects.

Tamaya Dennard resigned from council after her arrest in February on fraud and bribery charges.

She pleaded guilty in September to a charge of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Dennard could face up to 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release of not more than three years and a fine not to exceed $250,000, court documents state.

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