The men indicted in a Dayton-area public corruption case have faced unpaid debts or financial problems over the years, according to a Dayton Daily News review of public records.
The federal case is bringing new scrutiny to the finances, business interests and property holdings of former Dayton city commissioner Joey Williams, former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie, city of Dayton employee RoShawn Winburn and local business owner Brian Higgins.
All four have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. And an indictment contains allegations of wrong doing that the government must prove in court.
While a prosecutor only has to show a public official took something of value in exchange for performing an official act, motivation — such as financial pressures or greed — can help the government’s case, said Ann Rowland, who retired last year after 37 years as a federal prosecutor.
“So if a prosecutor can prove that a public official is under financial pressure that is always helpful and not uncommon, in my experience,” said Rowland.
She prosecuted cases in the northern district of Ohio, including one in Cuyahoga County government that led to more than 60 convictions against politicians, contractors and others.
“I would say more commonly the motive is greed,” she said. “Most corrupt public officials can afford to live on their public salaries – they just don’t want to.”
Here is what the Dayton Daily News found from public records on each of the four men indicted:
For decades, Joey D. Williams has had a high profile in Dayton, serving eight years on the Dayton schools’ board of education and more than 16 years on the city commission. He served as president of Dayton-market Chase Bank and then KeyBank operations.
In December 2009, Williams, his wife Natasha and six others were sued by Fifth Third Bank over default on a small business loan the group had taken out for a Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuit restaurant. They were hit with a judgment for $726,804, plus $113,039 in interest and fees, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court records.
The Williams’ each had their wages garnished to pay off their portions of the loan; they were released from the lien in June 2013.
During that same period, Natasha Williams faced a personal injury lawsuit from the estate of 23-year-old Michael Hugee, who died in an auto accident involving Natasha Williams. The case was settled at mediation and dismissed in June 2010.
Montgomery County court records show the state of Ohio issued a lien for $137.45 in unpaid personal income taxes against Joey Williams in May 2015. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which handles debt-collection for the state, the lien had not been paid as of Friday.
Williams’ attorney, Pat Handley, did not return a request for comment in time for this article.
Former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie owes nearly $8,000 to the Ohio House of Representatives. He received that as salary while he was a state representative from the Dayton area, but agreed to pay it back as part of a plea agreement for corruption charges he faced in early 2013.
“His last payment of $25.00 was October 26, 2016. We are looking into how we can collect on the remaining balance,” said Ohio House GOP caucus spokeswoman Gail Crawley.
As part of his plea deal in early 2013, Luckie agreed to pay back $11,893 in state pay he received between his October 2012 indictment and the end of his legislative term in December 2012.
Related: Dayton lawmaker faces 45 felonies
In early 2013, he pleaded guilty to charges of election falsification, theft and money laundering. FBI public corruption investigators – the same squad involved in the latest charges against Luckie – found that Luckie diverted roughly $130,000 from his campaign account for personal use, writing checks to himself, making ATM withdrawals at casinos, paying on a home equity line of credit, and buying furniture and jewelry.
Luckie’s 2010 divorce file showed he was in debt. His $10,433 in monthly expenses far exceeded the salaries he earned as a lawmaker and at a part-time job. In the final divorce decree filed, Luckie got two houses, a Cadillac Escalade, half of his ex-wife’s 401(k) account and the pair split $56,000 in consumer credit card debt: $20,000 for her, $36,000 for him.
Federal investigators now accuse Luckie of starting a scheme four months after leaving state prison, offering his firm as a front so another business could claim minority-owned status and win a contract for demolition work.
Luckie’s attorney Aaron Durden, appointed by the court, says he has no knowledge of the debt owed to the Ohio House and it’d be inappropriate to make comment on the case at this juncture.
In addition to working at the city of Dayton’s Human Relations Council — a job that paid him $73,983 last year — RoShawn Winburn states on his LinkedIn page that he is a financial advisor for Aspyre Advisors LLC and a managing partner of Jasper Browne LLC.
Winburn was assessed state tax liens in 2007 and 2014 — both of which have been paid and released, according to Montgomery County records.
His state ethics form filed in August 2010 when he served briefly on the Huber Heights City Commission listed no investments, debtors or creditors. He listed as sources of income Monument Holdings, an investment advisory practice, Huber Heights and unemployment checks from the state of Ohio.
Winburn and Michele Torres were married in June 1997 and divorced in September 2012. They divided property, including four vehicles and three houses. Winburn retained ownership of a house on Berchman Drive in Huber Heights, while Torres kept two others, including one on Callamere Farms in Huber Heights.
Winburn’s attorney David Greer declined to comment, saying his client will do his talking in court.
Brian E. Higgins has not held public office like the other three but his company, GSSP Enterprise Inc., held a public contract to transport dead bodies to the Montgomery County Coroner’s office between 1996 and 2012. The last version of the contract was estimated to be worth $128,000 a year.
The firm resigned from that work in 2012 after the Dayton Daily News documented a controversy over $215,500 in unpaid taxes and Higgins’ ties to Ken Betz, the director of the coroner’s office at the time.
In 2006, the Chicago Tribune published allegations that GSSP Enterprises, doing the same work in the city of Chicago, mixed up bodies, overbilled the city and violated contract regulations.
In July 2012, Higgins shut down Sidebar, a restaurant he owned in Dayton’s Oregon District, as it was facing eviction. The landlord, Michael Ervin, filed an eviction lawsuit against Sidebar and Higgins, saying $34,723 was owed in rent, back rent, late fees, utilities and taxes. The suit was later dismissed.
At the time, Sidebar employees and former employees picketed the restaurant, claiming they had not been paid.
In Montgomery County, dating back to 2001, he was personally sued over unpaid debts owed to landlords, contractors, banks and others, according to court records. He is still listed as owing debts on more than a dozen cases, according to Montgomery County Clerk of Courts records.
In the current federal case, Higgins is accused of insurance fraud — a charge he is pleading not guilty to. Investigators allege that while living in an 8,000-square-foot house at 7240 Meeker Creek Drive, Butler Twp., Higgins filed an insurance claim for damage caused by a 600-gallon leaky fish tank. Instead of getting the repairs done, Higgins submitted bogus documents and pocketed the $100,000 insurance payout, according to the federal indictment.
Higgins made the claim even as he was facing foreclosure on the property, the indictment said.
The bank that held the $891,335 mortgage on the property began foreclosure proceedings in 2010, according to court records. Seven years later, the bank bought the property for $810,000 in March 2017. Months later, the bank sold it to the current owners for $359,625, county auditor records show.
Higgins’ attorney, Anthony Cicero, did not return a request for comment in time for this article.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.