Charges involve allegations of wrong-doing starting in 2014
The indictments include charges of bribery, fraud and contract steering
The FBI used sophisticated methods in their investigation
More charges could come against current and former city of Dayton employees
Federal indictments were unsealed Tuesday against Joey D. Williams, a local bank executive and former city commissioner; former state representative Clayton Luckie; city of Dayton employee RoShawn Winburn and Brian Higgins, a local man who once owned a dead body hauling business.
“This is the first wave of indictments,” said Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, at a press conference. “Now that the investigation is open and overt, I expect there to be more arrests and more charges going forward.”
Four separate federal indictments detail allegations of bribes, fraud, contract steering, a minority-owned business used to get contracts to which it was not entitled. The charges involve allegations of wrong-doing starting in 2014. The separate schemes arose out of the same investigation, authorities said. Indictments are allegations that prosecutors must prove in a court of law.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Joseph Deters said the lengthy investigation used sophisticated methods to “uncover what appears to be a culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics.”
All four men entered pleas of not guilty in U.S. District Court.
Williams, a KeyBank executive, is charged with bribery, which if convicted carries up to 10 years in prison. It is alleged he solicited and accepted more than $50,000 in free benefits, including cash and construction of a patio to his house in Dayton, from an unidentified business owner seeking city contracts.
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The indictment says the business owner approached Williams in early 2015 complaining about difficulties the business owner was having securing city contracts. Williams allegedly indicated he had a construction project he hoped to complete at his home, which the business owner did at a “substantially discounted price,” according to the indictment.
In exchange, the indictment says, Williams exerted influence over city employees and other officials, causing them to award contracts from CityWide Development Corporation and the city of Dayton, in excess of $150,000.
“We believe in his innocence. We intend on mounting a vigorous defense,” said Williams’ attorney, Pat Hanley, on Tuesday. “He’s been a prominent member of the community for 20 years. He’s been an elected official, a prominent business leader and he loves the city of Dayton. He wants to continue to participate in its growth and vitality. But right now, he’s undergoing a difficult situation for him and his family. I’m his defense attorney and I’m advising him not to make any statements to anyone. ”
Williams and his wife own 1229 Sunnyview Ave., a 3,600-square-foot, 4-bedroom house valued at $173,660, according to Montgomery County Auditor records. A KeyBank spokesman said Williams is on leave from the company.
Luckie is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which if convicted carries up to 20 years in prison. Starting in June 2016, Luckie was affiliated with a company and devised a fraudulent scheme to take advantage of programs offered by government entities to help disadvantaged businesses, federal authorities allege. The business didn't own heavy equipment or employ workers skilled in demolition but Luckie offered the company's certification as a disadvantaged business to the owner of a demolition company to help secure a demolition contract from the city of Dayton, federal authorities allege.
Luckie, 55, served 10 years on the Dayton School Board and seven years in the Ohio House before pleading guilty to election falsification, money laundering and theft in 2013. Federal authorities found he diverted $130,000 from his campaign account for personal use. He served three years in state prison and was released in 2016.
Aaron Durden, Luckie’s attorney, declined to comment on the federal case.
Winburn, 45, is charged with wire fraud, bribery and making false statements to the FBI.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. It is alleged that he took more than $20,000 in cash bribes from individuals and companies seeking to do business with the city of Dayton.
In exchange, Winburn agreed to take - and actually took - favorable official action that benefited the people paying the bribes, the indictment says.
The conduct took place between September 2014 and September 2017, it says.
The federal indictment said Winburn, as director of the Human Relations Council Minority Business Assistance Center, had access to confidential information about upcoming demolition projects, anticipated requests for proposal and other materials and Winburn could influence to whom the city awarded contracts.
As director of the MBAC, Winburn improperly certified entities that paid him bribes and provided them with “confidential, non-public information” about forthcoming demolition projects, the 12-page indictment says.
His father, former state representative Roland Winburn, said the allegations are shocking and “totally out of character” for his son. “It’s just … it hits you hard. But I’m behind him. I’m supportive of him. We’re going to get the best representation we can and get to the bottom of what’s going on.”
Higgins, who previously owned one business that transported deceased human bodies as well as a second, a local restaurant, is charged with mail fraud and wire fraud. The charges carry penalties up to 20 years in prison.
It is alleged Higgins filed a fraudulent insurance claim over water damage to an 8,000-square-foot home on Meeker Creek Drive in Dayton, using a $100,000 insurance payout for personal use rather than to make repairs from damage caused by a leak from a 600-gallon fish tank.
In 2012, a Dayton Daily News investigation found that Higgins’ company, GSSP Enterprise Inc., which transported dead human bodies, was delinquent on hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal taxes.
Higgins’ defense attorney left the federal courthouse without comment.
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said she learned of charges against Williams and Winburn Tuesday. “I’m as shocked about this as others are, at this point,” she said.
“When something like this happens it’s a real black cloud that tends to overshadow things,” she said in a press conference Tuesday. “So I worry about that.”
She also said that the city has retained the law firm of Green & Green to conduct its own investigation of city practices.
In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she was "sad for our city."
“I, like all city employees, learned of today's indictments involving City officials through the media. I, like many Daytonians, am sad for our city. The city will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities and I support the City Manager in a thorough investigation of the city's processes to protect all Dayton residents.”
The lead agency on the investigation is the FBI’s public corruption squad.
In 2008, under then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, the bureau established public corruption as a top priority and established teams in state capitals, including one in Columbus in 2012. The team includes personnel from the Ohio Attorney General and Ohio Auditor offices.
The team uses sophisticated investigation techniques, including wire taps, surveillance, undercover stings, GPS tracking devices, confidential informants, subpoenas and search warrants. Glassman declined to detail which techniques have been used on this case.
All four men indicted Tuesday are African-American. Glassman said federal investigators are not targeting African-Americans and are merely following where the evidence leads them.
Glassman declined to identify other targets of the investigation. “We’ve got multiple different people who are employees of the city of Dayton or former employees of the city of Dayton, elected officials or employees who, according to the allegations in the indictment, participated in corrupt schemes to defraud the citizens of good government,” he said.
Glassman declined to say when those who allegedly paid bribes might face charges or when the “next wave” of arrests might come.
Glassman and Deters asked members of the public who have knowledge of public corruption to call the FBI tip line at 937-291-5222.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said public corruption victimizes citizens who pay taxes, follow the law and trust in honest government. State and federal officials are cooperating hand-in-glove on the case, he said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to give in.”