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Government and Politics

Suarez campaign funding case goes to the jury
Jurors must decide if the North Canton businessman illegally solicited campaign donations from employees and  reimbursed them with company money

Kevin Niedermier
Ben Suarez and his wife Nancy.
Courtesy of University of Akron
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The campaign contribution case against Ben Suarez has gone to the jury after the month-long trial in federal court in Cleveland. Following today’s closing arguments, jurors must decide if the North Canton telemarketer is guilty of soliciting campaign contributions from his employees, and reimbursing them with company money.


LISTEN: Closing arguments

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Prosecutors reviewed a long paper trail they say shows Suarez used employees as straw donors to raise about $200,000 for the campaign of Congressman Jim Renacci and the failed U.S. Senate campaign of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

The defense countered, saying Suarez wasn’t clear on the rules and simply made an honest, but costly mistake. They say he didn’t act with the intent necessary for a conviction.

Defense attorney Michael Schamel focused on former company CFO Michael Giorgio, a co-defendant who collected the donations for Suarez. Giorgio recently pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors. He testified that he and Suarez both knew they were breaking the law. Schamel says Giorgio is innocent and only took the deal to reduce his prison time.

Suarez collected the campaign donations for Renacci and Mandel in 2011 to get their help fighting a expensive consumer fraud suit in California.

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