COLUMBUS, Ohio – A former member of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority pleaded guilty today in U.S. district court to honest services wire fraud related to a contract with the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
According to his plea, in 2014 and 2015 John P. Raphael, 65, of Columbus, received bribes from a catering company in exchange for official acts.
Raphael was a member of the board of directors of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority and also served as its treasurer. In these roles, he had a duty to provide honest service to the FCCFA, Franklin County, and the people of Franklin County. The FCCFA owned and operated the Greater Columbus Convention Center
In 2014, the FCCFA engaged in a confidential tender process to select a food supplier for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Four companies submitted bids.
Without disclosing it to the FCCFA, RaphaÃ«l became a consultant for one of the four companies. In the consulting agreement, the company agreed to pay Raphael a monthly retainer of $ 5,000 and a âsuccess feeâ of $ 40,000 if the company was able to secure the contract.
Raphael has repeatedly taken official acts for the benefit of the catering business in exchange for money.
On July 8, 2014, Raphael received an email containing a draft Request for Proposal, or RFP, which in its final form would solicit bids from potential food service providers for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The email also contained a draft of a sample contract that potential suppliers would be expected to perform if they won the offer.
Thirty-six minutes after receiving these documents, RaphaÃ«l forwarded them to an employee of the company he was assisting.
The draft RFP and the draft model contract were confidential documents and should not be released beyond the FCCFA. Raphael did not share the documents with any other potential bidders.
The company Raphael was helping expressed two “concerns” about the draft RFP and requested two changes. Each of the proposed changes was part of the final contract that the FCCFA and the Raphael Company were helping to sign.
Raphael sent the company other documents that were useful to him and that he did not share with other potential bidders. Raphael also attended FCCFA meetings related to the bidding process without revealing that he worked for the company.
The company RaphaÃ«l was helping ultimately won the contract. Two days after signing the contract, Raphael sent an invoice for the $ 40,000 success fee. The company paid the costs. In total, Raphael received $ 144.00 from the company as part of the consulting agreement.
Fraud by wire of honest services is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Congress sets the maximum legal penalty. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the Sentencing Advisory Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Vipal J. Patel, who is the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of Ohio in this case; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; and the executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, Paul M. Nick, announced the plea presented today before U.S. trial judge Norah McCann King. Deputy United States Attorney Peter K. Glenn-Applegate and Special Deputy United States Attorney J. Michael Marous are representing the United States in this case.
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