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Columbus Lobbyist Pleads Guilty In Red Light Camera Scandal

WCBE files

A City Hall lobbyist has pleaded guilty to extortion in the case involving the bribery of Columbus public officials by a traffic-camera company trying to keep its contracts with the city.Federal prosecutors say 60-year-old John Raphael extorted money in the form of campaign contributions for elected officials, including City Council president and Mayoral Candidate Andy Ginther, from Phoenix-based Redflex for contracts awarded by the city.  Raphael pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of interference with commerce by threats. Raphael denies he took part in any bribery or public corruption.

Raphael does not implicate any elected officials in his plea deal. A federal investigation continues, and prosecutors have given Raphael a list of people he must stay away from during the probe. Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty to bribery charges in June. Court records, campaign-finance reports and law enforcement sources say two RedFlex contributions went to the campaigns of Ginther in 2011 and Mayor Michael Coleman in 2007. Newly unsealed court documents show Aaron Rosenberg, a former RedFlex sales executive, pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiring to bribe elected officials in Columbus to obtain and retain contracts from 2005 through 2013. He served a year of probation and promised to cooperate with prosecutors. Those documents also show Ginther called Rosenberg in 2011 seeking a 20 thousand dollar campaign contribution. Ginther has acknowledged making the call and asking Raphael to help him secure a donation. Documents and sources say Redflex gave Raphael 20 thousand, which went to the Ohio Democratic Party, which made a 21 thousand dollar donation to Ginther’s campaign in 2011. Ginther and Coleman have not been charged.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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