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Press Release

Columbus Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Extortion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio lobbyist pleaded guilty to extortion in connection with conduit contributions, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office.

John P. Raphael, 60, of Columbus, pleaded guilty today to a one-count information charging him with interference with commerce by threats.

According to the information, Raphael was a consultant and lobbyist based in Columbus, Ohio, who was hired and paid by companies that sought to do business with municipalities and counties in Ohio. From March 2005 to February 2013, a red light camera enforcement company hired and paid Raphael to seek and obtain lucrative contracts to provide red light photo enforcement systems in the City of Columbus.

During the time the red light camera enforcement company was seeking to retain contracts in Columbus, Raphael repeatedly pressured and induced the company to make campaign contributions to the campaigns of various elected officials. He communicated to the company that it would lose its contracts and suffer an economic loss if it did not make the payments. Thus, Raphael obtained and attempted to obtain the funds by the wrongful use of fear of economic harm.

The former chief executive officer of the red light camera vendor, Karen L. Finley, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and honest services wire and mail fraud.

Interference with commerce by threats is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or a fine of twice the pecuniary gain or loss. A sentencing hearing is yet to be scheduled.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office, Columbus Resident Agency, with the assistance of IRS-Criminal Investigations and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous of the Southern District of Ohio.

This information only contains a charge against John Raphael and should not be construed as a reflection on the guilt or innocence of any other individual.

Updated February 4, 2016