Tamaya Dennard is assisted into a car by the Reverend Nelson Pierce after leaving federal court in Downtown Cincinnati Tuesday. Photo by Dan Yount
By Herald Staff
The Cincinnati City Council President Pro Tem Tamaya Dennard was arrested Tuesday morning at a downtown Cincinnati Starbucks and charged federally with honest services wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion. She was scheduled to attend City Hall for a committee meeting.
Dennard, 40, appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon. The charges pending against her were unsealed at that time.
Dennard was elected to Cincinnati City Council in November 2017.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, between August and December 2019, Dennard engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money.
“As the affidavit details, a concerned citizen with Dennard, felt an ethical and moral obligation to report any criminal wrongdoing,” U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers said. “The individual then worked at the direction of law enforcement throughout this investigation. It takes courage for citizens to come forward and assist law enforcement as this individual did.”
Dennard allegedly requested between $10,000 and $5,000 from the individual to pay for her personal expenses.
A statement issued by Jennifer Thornton from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Ohio, said that at the direction of and in coordination with the FBI, the individual and Dennard exchanged a total of $15,000, in increments of $10,000 and $5,000, for upcoming votes on a matter scheduled to be heard by Council.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Dennard deposited $10,000 in a personal bank account the same day she received it.
After receiving the initial $10,000, it was alleged that Dennard requested the additional $5,000 in advance. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said records indicate the same day she received the $5,000 in cash, Dennard booked two seats on a Sept. 22, 2019, flight from Cincinnati to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. They added that records further indicate that on Sept. 27, 2019, she booked two return tickets, and more than $4,000 total on the Florida trip to include accommodations at the Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater, Florida, and the airfare.
Dennard allegedly continued to reach out to the individual asking for money on various occasions in October and November 2019. The U.S. Attorney Office spokesperson said that text messages from Dennard to the individual during that time include “Happy to help you. But need yours too”; and “As I said, I’m sure there will be ways to help you as well and I will.”
Dennard is charged with one count each of honest services wire fraud (up to 20 years in prison), bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds (up to 10 years in prison) and attempted extortion under color of right (up to 20 years in prison).
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; and Chris Hoffman, special agent in charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, announced the charges. Deputy Criminal Chief Emily N. Glatfelter and Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Singer are representing the United States in this case.
A criminal complaint merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Erik Laursen, Dennard’s attorney, said at a press conference outside the federal building that Councilmember Dennard she pleaded not guilty at her hearing. He added she would continue with her duties on the city council, and that “she is a strong woman.’’