FBI agent who led the FBI investigation testifies

courtesy of WXIX Cincinnati His wife, Dr. Sarah Coyne, arrives at the Potter Stewart United States Courthouse on June 22, 2022, for opening statements at his federal public corruption trial, which is scheduled to begin the following day. Sittenfeld is accused by prosecutors of illegally exchanging his votes on the city council for campaign contributions.

THE WXIX BROADCASTING COMPANY, INC. Prosecutors on Wednesday heard from an FBI agent who led an investigation that led to corruption charges against three Cincinnati City Council members in 2020.

After a former Cincinnati Bengal player turned developer, Chinedum Ndukwe, began working as a paid FBI informant and introduced him to Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, Special Agent Nathan Halbrook joined the investigation in January 2018.

The testimony of Holbrook has been going on all day and is expected to continue until the court closes at around 5 p.m.

In November 2020, 37-year-old Sittenfeld was indicted on two counts each of honest wires fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion by a government official.

Prosecutors claim that Sittenfeld exchanged $40,000 in donations to his political action fund for support of development deals (PAC).

Since the beginning, Sittenfeld has steadfastly maintained his innocence and vehemently denies the allegations.

During opening statements on Wednesday, Sittenfeld’s attorneys said that “it is likely” he will testify in his own defense.

There is a two-to-three-week time frame set for this particular trial.

The third day of P.G. Sittenfeld’s trial has just begun. pic.twitter.com/5duuaaXk4l@FOX19 As of June 23, 2022, — Kody Fisher (@KodyFisherTV)

Over a period of 18 months in 2018 and 2019, FBI agents pretending to be developers paid Sittenfeld to “deliver the votes” and perform other official actions for the development of the old, city-owned Convention Place Mall at 435 Elm Street, according to his indictment.

An old campaign ally of Sitfeld’s, Ndukwe wanted to turn 435 Elm Street into a hotel and sports betting complex.

The FBI paid Ndukwe to target government officials after an investigation revealed his involvement in “campaign finance law violations, IRA early withdrawal violations, and an assortment of other potential federal crimes,” according to court records.

According to Holbrook’s testimony on Thursday, an ex-Cincinnati City Councilman named Sam Malone was already working with the FBI and had introduced agents to several politicians.

From 2003 to 2005, Malone served on the city council. After that, he founded Urban Strategies & Solutions, a consulting firm that worked with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD).

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office released a copy of its special audit of MSD for the years 2009 to 2015 in 2018, and it shows that Urban Strategies & Solutions was hit with the largest recovery finding ($294,000). The auditor’s website still shows that sum as unpaid as of Thursday.

In the audit, it was found that MSD customers had to bear a loss of $779,000 due to undocumented work, misappropriation of public funds, and false expense reports.

MSD’s ‘lack of controls’ inflated costs, according to the auditor, costing $779K to customers.

However, FOX19 NOW has confirmed that Malone did introduce other city leaders, including Jeff Pastor, to FBI agents last year, even though he is not a party to Sittenfeld’s charges.

Sittenfeld’s arrest came just a few days after Pastor’s in a similar case.

According to federal prosecutors, Ndukwe agreed to cooperate with their investigation into Pastor’s death as a witness and an FBI informant.

In connection with his position on council, Pastor was accused of bribery, extortion, wire fraud, and money laundering.

For projects that the City Council was considering, Pastor is accused of soliciting and receiving $55,000 in bribes between August 2018 and February 2019.

On his own recognizance, he pleaded not guilty and is currently out on bail. It has been pushed back while he looks for a new lawyer after the top courts in Ohio and Kentucky put a hold on his current one.

The Elm Street project is at the center of the legal disputes between Pastor and Sittenfeld.

As the trial began in earnest on Wednesday, it was mentioned several times in opening statements.

In closing arguments, prosecutors said they had evidence that Sittenfeld exchanged gifts for votes three times.

Undercover FBI agents were shown in audio and video clips by Sittenfeld’s attorneys.

When the jury watches the clips, Sittenfeld’s lawyers argue, they will not see bribery. Prosecutors have been accused of withholding important details about those encounters from the public.

In exchange for campaign donations, the prosecution claims that Sittenfeld bribed the agents by promising that he would use his position on the city council to prevent any of their rival sportsbooks from opening up shop.

It was also made clear to the undercover agents by Sittenfeld that they would receive something in return for donating the money.

When undercover agents asked him how much money could be put into the PAC and not be traced back to him, the defendant told them $5,000, according to his indictment. He also instructed them to use different LLCs so that they could not be traced back to them.

According to reports, he also claimed that he had a high percentage of the vote in Cincinnati and predicted that he would be the city’s next mayor.

“I can move more votes than any other single person,” Sittenfeld allegedly boasted in his indictment. This should not be his last words, but I can always get a vote to the left or the right,” he is quoted as saying in December of last year.

A videotape of examples from Sittenfeld’s indictment, including Sittenfeld saying: “You know, obviously nothing can be illegal like….illegally nothing can be a quid, quid pro quo.” In addition, I know what you’re saying isn’t what I’m saying. What I can say, however, is that I’ve always been strongly in favor of redevelopment and revitalization of our urban core in particular.

It is also alleged that Sittenfeld told the investors that he was still exerting pressure on public officials, and that he promised to exert even more pressure in the future.

According to his indictment, which quotes him as saying: “I believe I will be the next mayor of Cincinnati based on the results of the recent election.”

“I can get more people to vote than anyone else…” “Don’t let these be my famous last words, but I can always get a vote to my left or a vote to my right,” he allegedly said in December 2018.

At the time of his arrest, Sittenfeld was running for mayor of Cincinnati in 2021 and had raised more than $700,000, according to his latest campaign finance report on file.

The indictment, according to Sittenfeld’s legal team, shows that he did not enter into a quid pro quo agreement. They’ve also said time and time again that everything he did was legal and just a normal part of American politics.

Over the course of more than a year, undercover agents made at least six attempts to entice Sittenfeld to join them on a trip, offering suggestions like Las Vegas, Miami, and Nashville as well as a private plane, according to court documents.

According to his attorneys, he never once took them up on any of their offers.

When PG and his wife welcomed their first child in 2019, two undercover agents gave them a $277.99 bottle of scotch and $177.50 box of cigars, which Sittenfeld accepted, according to court records.

(Sittenfeld) affirmed in a public filing to the Ohio Ethics Commission (OEC) that he did not receive any gifts from the (undercover agents) in 2019, despite a requirement that all gifts received in the year valued at over $75 be disclosed, court filings stated.

Because Sittenfeld doesn’t smoke cigars and is unfamiliar with “this kind of alcohol,” his attorneys argue, he thought the gift was less than $75.

However, it does not alter the fact that he received gifts from (the undercover agents), nor does it alter the fact of his obligation to disclose that information, which he signed and acknowledged to be truthful. “If the defendant so desires, he may testify as to the reasons why he failed to disclose the gifts.”

It was similar to what Democrat and Republican whips say on Capitol Hill, according to the defense attorney Charlie Rittgers, when Sittenfeld told federal agents he could get votes.

In addition, Rittgers demonstrated to the jury that Sittenfeld’s votes were not for sale by providing an example.

After Sittenfeld’s campaign contributions for many years, FC Cincinnati Co-CEO Jeff Berding cast his vote against Berding’s preference for the club to build its new Oakley stadium.

The arrests of Tamara Dennard and Jeff Pastor, both of Cincinnati’s city council, in 2020 on charges of similar corruption came just days before Sittenfeld’s.

Here are the people who will be called to the stand to give testimony.

Kevin Flynn, a former councilman from Cincinnati, was the first witness called by the prosecution on Wednesday.

From 2013 to 2017, he served on the council with Sittenfeld.

Cole wrote in a court order last week that determined who could and couldn’t testify that Flynn’s testimony is limited to giving general background on how city government, council, and development deals work.

On Wednesday, former Cincinnati economic development director Phil Denning, now executive vice president of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, also testified.

When it comes to this case, it all revolves around 435 Elm Street.

Additional witnesses, both for the prosecution and defense, number more than 45.

After all, prosecutors were hoping to limit how Sittenfeld’s attorneys could defend him but “if defendant introduces evidence related to these investigations, this once again ‘opens the door’ for the government to introduce clarifying evidence justifying those investigations, as necessitated,” according to court records.

The Prosecution’s response:

In addition to being a close friend of Sittenfeld’s, Ndukwe was also an active campaign supporter and financial contributor. Undercover FBI operatives met Sittenfeld through him.

Political consultant with several Democratic candidates as clients Jared Kamrasse, who works for the Democrats as a political strategist. As treasurer of Sittenfeld’s PAC, he was responsible for processing all of Sittenfeld’s PAC donations. Kamrass also served as Cranley’s fundraiser. He could be prosecuted and “violated federal laws, about commonplace, legal practices of campaign financing and fundraising” that are not related to this case or project, court records show. Sittenfeld’s attorneys objected to him taking the stand, but the judge ruled Friday he can testify because it relates to Sittenfeld’s “intent and conduct at issue in this case.”

Jay Kincaid, a political consultant and former chief of staff for Mayor John Cranley, who was in office from December 2013 to early 2022. After Kincaid stopped working as Cranley’s chief of staff, he was a lobbyist for Ndukwe, the FBI agent testified in court Thursday. Holbrook testified Thursday that Ndukwe told him that Sittenfeld had told him to talk to Kincaid about how to “discretely” make donations.

Claire McKenna, a public accountant.

Berding

Laura Brunner, president of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority which owns the 435 Elm Street property that is the focus of the case

Chris Cicchinelli, CEO of Pure Romance

David Spaulding, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction

For the Defense:

Stephen Leeper: President & CEO of Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC)

Former CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Michael Fisher

Former Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach.

Laura Brunner, CEO and President of Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority

Luke Blocher, formerly with the city solicitor’s office. Now he works for a private law firm in downtown Cincinnati, Taft Stettinius & Hollister

Current Interim City Manager John Curp

Montgomery City Councilman Chris Debozsi

Brian Tome, pastor of Crossroads Church

Dan Schimberg, president of Uptown Rental Properties.

Peg Wyant, president and CEO of Grandin Properties.

Clare Blankmeyer, executive director of Greenlight Cincinnati Fund.

Dan Meyer, founder and CEO of Nehemiah Manufacturing.

Matt Alter, president of Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48.

Mike Burke, owner of Zips Café in Mt. Lookout

Cincinnati Police Officer Donald Jordan.

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