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Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Arrested On Federal Charges

Tamaya Dennard leaves the Hamilton County Courthouse with lawyer Erik Laursen on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Ann Thompson
Tamaya Dennard leaves the Hamilton County Courthouse with lawyer Erik Laursen on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Updated: 2:52 p.m.

Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard has been arrested and federally charged with wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion, says the office of Dave DeVillers, U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Ohio. Dennard denies the charges.

Between August and December of 2019, officials allege Dennard engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, offering to exchange her votes for money.

Dennard appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon. She is free on an own-recognizance bond with a preliminary hearing set for March 16.

When WVXU asked Dennard's lawyer how she reacted to the charges, Erik Laursen replied, "It was hard but she's got a brave face on and we deny these charges."  

Dennard was arrested outside of a Downtown Starbucks this morning. 

According to the affidavit details, "a concerned citizen contacted law enforcement following an interaction with Dennard, feeling an ethical and moral obligation to report any criminal wrongdoing," DeVillers explains in a release. "The individual then worked at the direction of law enforcement throughout this investigation." 

Working with the FBI, the individual and Dennard allegedly exchanged a total of $15,000 to be used for her personal expenses in exchange for upcoming votes on a matter to be heard before Council. 

She deposited $10,000 in a personal bank account the same day she received it, records show. She later received $5,000 in cash and booked two seats on a Sept. 22, 2019, flight from Cincinnati to Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Five days later, she booked two return tickets, spending a total of $4,000. 

Dennard allegedly continued to reach out to the individual asking for money. DeVillers' office cites text messages from Dennard to the individual that state "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).

Dennard was elected to City Council in 2017 and will continue to serve leading up to her March hearing.

"Of course she can still maintain herself as an effective leader for this city," her attorney Laursen tells WVXU. "She has consistently stood up to anything that has been thrown at her - always - as we recall from her campaign. Brought her own chair to the table if she needed to. She's a strong woman."

Ann Thompson contributed to this report.

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