He pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts each of wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion by a government official.
The case began in November 2018, when Sittenfeld allegedly started meeting with undercover agents posing as investors about a potential development project in Cincinnati.
In December 2018, Sittenfeld told undercover agents he could “deliver the votes” in city council if they sent four $5,000 checks to a political action committee he controlled, according to an indictment.
He is accused of accepting another round of four $5,000 checks in September and October 2019.
“If it goes to this [PAC] instead of to, ‘SITTENFELD for Cincinnati,’ nothing about it in any way will ever be connected to me and no one will, you know, no one’s going to be poking around for it to find your names on it,” he told the agents, the indictment said.
Sittenfeld, who is running for mayor of Cincinnati, allegedly bragged to the agents about his political clout, telling them that he “can move more votes than any other single person.”
At one point, Sittenfeld told the agents that he wants to avoid anything criminal. “You know, obviously nothing can be illegal like… illegally nothing can be a quid, quid pro quo,” he told them, according to the indictment.
“And I know that’s not what you’re saying either. But what I can say is that I’m always super pro-development and revitalization of especially our urban core.”
Sittenfeld is the third of the city’s councilmen to be arrested on corruption charges this year, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Councilman Jeff Pastor was arrested last week on similar corruption charges and former councilwoman Tamaya Dennard was arrested in a bribery scheme in February, the paper reported.
Mayor John Cranley called the allegations “sickening” and “depressing” Thursday.
“Just like the other two council members, he needs to resign. He’s entitled to due process, but he should focus on that,” Cranley said at a press conference.
“Obviously, given the events of three councilmembers arrested this year, we need to clean house. We need to clean up the legislative branch.”
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