The front-runner to be Cincinnati’s next mayor was arrested at home this week by federal agents for allegedly accepting $40,000 in bribes, casting his once-bright political future into doubt and further tainting a city council beset by corruption charges.
Alexander Sittenfeld, known as P.G., is charged with two counts each of honest services wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion, federal prosecutors said.
He is the third member of Cincinnati’s nine-member council to be arrested this year on federal corruption charges.
Prosecutors said Sittenfeld’s arrest is related to a downtown development project that an undercover agent posing as a real estate investor wanted to get off the ground.
Sittenfeld faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.Before his arrest, Sittenfeld, 36, represented a new generation of up-and-coming political leaders, said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati.
He had a clear path to the mayor’s office. He presented himself as the young, the next, and the newest and the best and the brightest in politics,” Niven said. “He offered what seemed like a new, cleaner politic but obviously the allegations are more of the old.
”As part of an alleged scheme to display his influence, Sittenfeld presented voting data to an undercover agent that showed his political popularity, federal prosecutors said.
Every successful developer and business leader in Cincinnati has “already placed their bets with me,” Sittenfeld, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016, told undercover agents, according to the indictment. “I can move more votes than any other single person.
”Many of his council colleagues would not argue that point, although it may not matter anymore.“It’s very sad. I’ve known P.G. and his family for years and I couldn’t be more shocked and stunned and disappointed,” said Councilman David Mann, a Democrat who twice served as mayor.
For his part, Sittenfeld said he is innocent of the charges.“The allegations against me are simply not true,” he tweeted Friday. “The attempt to portray proper assistance to a project bringing jobs and growth to our city that benefits the public is a gross overreach and an injustice. I stand strongly on my record of public service. ”He did not return phone calls seeking further comment.
Sittenfeld’s arrest comes after former Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard, 40, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in June to honest services wire fraud.
In 2019, Dennard, a first-term councilwoman, allegedly engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion while trying to exchange her votes for money, according to federal prosecutors.
She faces up to 20 years in prison and fines and restitution for allegedly requesting between $10,000 and $15,000 from an individual to pay for her expenses, NBC 5 in Cincinnati reported.
Months went by and City Hall was seemingly starting a new chapter when the page flipped to Republican Councilman Jeff Pastor, 36.
Federal agents charged him last week with a 10-count indictment for bribery, extortion, money laundering and fraud.
Prosecutors claim he solicited and received $55,000 in bribes from August 2018 to February 2019 in exchange for promised official action related to projects before the council. Pastor pleaded not guilty.
“The city of Cincinnati has now been brought to its knees. We need drastic reform unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of this city,” Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou tweeted. “The voters of this city must make serious changes in 2021, and they need to understand how truly broken City Hall has become.
”Sittenfeld was arrested after a federal grand jury charged him this week in a sealed indictment.