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Four Democrats on the 12-member Toledo, Ohio, city council face corruption charges in the culmination of a two-year federal investigation into alleged vote-buying.
“Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Garrick ‘Gary’ Johnson, Larry Sykes and Keith Mitchell were charged with bribery and extortion in a federal criminal complaint after a two-year investigation, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ),” Fox News reported.
“The FBI started its investigation into the Toledo City Council members in 2018 for allegedly soliciting or accepting money or other things of value from local businesses in exchange for their votes.”
Evidently a tipster who was a former local businessman prompted the FBI investigation, which may have involved, among other factors, using confidential informants, tracking phone calls and texts and in-person meetings, and probing financial records and government documents. FBI agents reportedly executed search warrants when they took the councilors into custody.
The accused elected officials, who constitute one-third of the council membership, have denied any wrongdoing. Each was booked and released on a $50,00 bond.
As alluded to above, authorities also reportedly arrested a fifth person, a local attorney who allegedly may have facilitated in the purported pay-to-play arrangement.
According to Toledo TV station ABC13, “the court documents detail how each of the council members allegedly accepted payments in the range of five hundred to five thousand dollars for ‘yes’ votes on zoning requests to internet cafes.”
If convicted in a court of law, and that could be a long way off, if at all, because they — like all criminal defendants — are presumed innocent under our legal system, each could face up to 10 years behind bars for bribery and a maximum 20 years for extortion, along with a $250,000 fine for each alleged offense.
Democrat Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and City Council President Matt Cherry, along with various other Democrats in leadership positions, say that the quartet should step down from the council.
Local news WTOL 11 filmed an arrest of one of the members, reporting they are suspected of accepting ‘bribes for votes’. Watch below:
The blue city of Toledo is the county seat for Lucas County. The chair of the Lucas County Republican Party, Matt Waggoner, said that the arrests typify the culture of corruption in the city, and also called the councilors to step down followed by quick elections for the open seats.
“Four Democrat city council members – including the Executive Director of the Lucas County Democratic Party – have been arrested by the FBI in connection with a bribery scheme in Toledo city government. Democrat domination of Toledo city politics has consequences, and today we see them. Lucas County Republicans have long pointed to the culture of corruption within the City of Toledo and have put forward quality candidates to end Democrat domination.”
Apparently the accused individuals, if they continue to maintain their elected positions, will still be permitted to cast votes at council meetings while charges are pending.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said that “let today’s arrests serve as a reminder to all those who seek to exploit their elected positions for personal enrichment. The public deserves better, and we, the Department of Justice, will work day in, day out, to ensure that they got just that.”
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